Restarting airport and aviation industry operations in a post-COVID world

Established in 1991, Airports Council International (ACI World) is a global trade body that represents the interests of airports, airport authorities, governments, and international organizations in the development of standards, policies, and recommended practices for airports.

Recognizing that the current crisis has created an unprecedented global challenge, in particular to tourism and travel, airports and airlines have been forced to react to this major disruption event. Travel restrictions, border closure, and the resulting impact on demand has had a detrimental effect on all airports, worldwide.

Because of the pandemic, new measures will be required to restart the recovery process, while continuing to protect the health and welfare of travelers, airport staff, and the general public, to avoid the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining efficient operations.

ACI has prepared an in-depth guide focusing on best practices and guidance tailored for both the initial phases of the current restarting process, and the longer-term recovery process.

Guiding principles

ACI World has identified key principles for the air transport industry, focusing on practical, efficient, and workable solutions.

Measures should be supported by medical evidence.

All processes to be deployed to validate the acceptance of a passenger at departure or arrivals should be based on the medical evaluation of information and based on official medical expert evidence.

On-airport measures for health screening should be avoided.

Large-scale testing on-airport is likely to result in the creation of crowds, queues and additional dwell time. This would be counterproductive in terms of physical distancing, and also create unnecessary concerns about the safety of the aviation system, unnecessary security risks, and possible safety hazards.

Alternatives such as self-declaration of health should be considered for passengers, preferably though electronic means and directly with government entities. In the short term, manual declarations may provide a simple alternative.

Measures should be risk-based and outcome-driven.

Design of measures should be outcome-driven rather than solution-driven. This means that alternative ways of achieving the same outcome (mitigation of the spread of disease) should be acceptable.

Coordination between governments and clear communication for the traveling public are key.

To the extent possible, measures should be consistent between countries. When measures differ by country, good coordination and clear communication to passengers will be critical to prevent passenger confusion and minimize the negative impact on passenger confidence.

Measures should build consumer confidence and be regularly monitored using established benchmarking surveys to ensure that they meet or exceed customer expectations.

Enhanced communications to raise awareness about reducing the spread:

  • Updated public websites
  • Installation of signage
  • Making routine public announcements

Protective measures should be simple and practical.

Measures may include:

  • Physical distancing. This may be possible in the short term but will depend on passenger volumes and terminal layouts. At the start of recovery, staggering the opening of kiosks, desks, bag drops and security lanes may be possible.
  • Additional cleaning and sanitization.
  • Wearing of PPE.
  • Limiting access to public areas.
  • Providing sanitization stations after each process point.
  • Encourage health culture, implement staff training.

Measures should be constantly reviewed for impact, suitability and effectiveness.

Governments should take an incremental, flexible approach to requirements, and regularly reviewing and amending initial measures in response to changing circumstances.

Effective collaboration will be key.

Governments and industry should work collaboratively to identify opportunities to increase regulatory flexibility, minimize “touch points”, develop risk assessments and determine suitable measures based upon risk and operational realities.

Responsibilities need to be clearly defined.

When introducing measures, responsibilities need to be defined for purchasing equipment and supplies, carrying out processes and reporting. This includes processes for contact tracing, quarantining and health monitoring.

Regulatory change should be accelerated.

Looking to the future, governments should consider expedited revision of existing or implementation of new regulation to support processes that help reduce passenger touchpoints, such as the use of biometrics, home-printed bag tags, off-airport processing and greater use of e-gates.

To review the complete report, visit Aviation Operations During COVID-19 Business Restart and Recovery, published by the team at

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