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General News Last modified on April 20, 2020

Testing times for region's airports as traffic hits 'rock bottom'

ACI Asia-Pacific believes that passenger numbers across the region have hit "rock bottom" based on new traffic figures that show a 95% decrease in throughput at 18 of the region's busiest airports.

The year-on-year traffic figures are for airports in the major aviation markets of Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

According to ACI Asia-Pacific, initial signals of recovery were reported from China with a gradual resumption of its domestic traffic and, to a lesser extent, from South Korea.

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It notes that airports have made significant adjustments to operations to manage the impact as cautious preparations for resumption of services begin.

Adding: "As airports prepare for the post-COVID-19 period, a co-ordinated approach between governments, regulators, health authorities and aviation stakeholders to implement sustainable and effective health measures is needed now."

ACI Asia-Pacific's director general, Stefano Baronci, says: “Passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific region has reached rock bottom.

"Airports have been forced to make difficult operational decisions including full or partial closure of terminals and runways and reduction of front-line employees. These drastic measures take time to reverse. Returning to full operational status will not happen overnight.”

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Since the beginning of the outbreak, airports have stepped up health and hygiene measures to contain the spread of the virus and protect passengers and employees, notes ACI.

It believes that with some signals of stabilisation and efforts towards recovery cautiously starting up, governments and regulators, along with the national health authorities, need to work with the aviation industry to develop a coordinated approach so that airports can prepare the appropriate infrastructure, facilities and processes in support of health measures.

At a global level, it says, ICAO and WHO have an important role to play in providing guidance and co-ordinating joint efforts between governments and industry.

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“The freedom of movement will have to co-exist with the virus, until a vaccine against COVID-19 is available at a global scale," reveals Baronci.

"Airport operators will need to balance a safe travel experience for passengers with recovering connectivity to boost the economy. This cannot be done in isolation and requires the engagement of all aviation stakeholders.

"The support of States is required to reset and rebuild the sector, given its strategic role for the relaunch of the economy and its social relevance in terms of job creation.

"The virus has imposed a ‘new normal’ of living on us. A united industry needs to create a new normal for travelling."

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