COVID-19 updates

Latest news and updates on COVID-19

March 31, 2021

RwandAir is the first African airline to begin vaccinating all staff against COVID-19

RwandAir is the first African airline to vaccinate all staff against COVID-19, which it hopes will position the carrier as one of the safest on the continent.

The airline began its vaccination rollout programme earlier this month targeting all staff and crew who received their first shot.

Non-airline staff at Kigali International Airport, the airline’s hub, have been vaccinated as well to ensure a safe and secure environment for all passengers.

The drive comes just after RwandAir announced it will be the first carrier in Africa to start trialling the IATA Travel Pass in April 2021 to enable the safe resumption of international travel.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO of RwandAir, said: “Rwanda’s rapid roll-out of the first consignment of vaccines to arrive in the country prioritized all frontline workers, including RwandAir’s staff and crew. The vaccination programme has been designed to ensure we provide a safe and secure environment for travellers, both in the air and on the ground.”

“We have carefully considered every customer touchpoint at Kigali International Airport and on board our aircraft, as the world resumes travelling in the post-COVID era.”

“We look forward to welcoming our customers back to RwandAir. As an airline, the health and safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority and we have been working hard to restore our customers’ confidence to fly.”

In addition to RwandAir staff and crew, the staff of other airlines operating at the Kigali International Airport also received their COVID-19 vaccinations at the same time.

February 24, 2021

Joint Statement by the European Social partners in Civil Aviation on COVID-19 inoculation for aviation workers

The European Social partners in Civil Aviation has published a joint statement welcoming the recent progress on COVID-19 vaccination development.

The statement goes on to draw attention to the importance of vaccination within the aviation sector.

It says: “Aviation workers are essential and crucial to Europe’s economic recovery and to satisfy demand that will exist for cargo distribution including the logistics of vaccine delivery as well as the efficient movement of people that is critical to the functioning of the EU economy.

“The availability of aviation workers will allow European aviation to increase capacity, restore passenger confidence, and re-establish connectivity throughout Europe, both for business and leisure travel. The restart of European aviation will also help to secure jobs (IATA estimates that between 6-7 million jobs supported by aviation are at risk because of the pandemic), and it is therefore important that aviation workers are available as aviation capacity ramps up, currently expected from the IATA Summer 21 season.

“Although the rollout of the vaccine is at an early stage, and most predictions are that it will be well into 2021 before vaccines are widely available, it is important that planning commences early to ensure a smooth roll out. The European Social Partners fully support the prioritisation of frontline healthcare workers and the medically vulnerable for Covid-19 vaccination. Thereafter, Governments should give priority to critical infrastructure workers whose activities facilitate the restart of the European economy. In particular, priority should be given to public facing workers in critical infrastructure industries which have been badly affected by Covid-19 restrictions. This includes aviation personnel. Accordingly, we call on Member States to already include the inoculation of essential aviation workers in their Covid-19 vaccination rollout preparedness plans. Clear coordination and engagement between Member States and the undersigned Social Partners will also assist in ensuring an efficient inoculation programme, and we stand ready to assist as required.”

Read the full statement

February 17, 2021

SIA Group operates first flights with full set of
vaccinated pilots and cabin crew

All three passenger airlines within the SIA Group – Singapore Airlines (SIA), SilkAir and Scoot – is among the first carriers in the world to operate flights with a full complement of vaccinated pilots and cabin crew.

The first services with a full set of vaccinated crew were SIA flight SQ956, which departed Singapore for Jakarta, Indonesia on 11 February 2021 at 0930hrs local time (GMT+8), Scoot’s TR606 which departed for Bangkok, Thailand at 0930hrs, and SilkAir’s MI608 which will depart for Phnom Penh, Cambodia at 1630hrs.

The Singapore government has prioritised the aviation sector in the country’s vaccination exercise. This reflects the sector’s importance, as well as the SIA Group’s crucial role in Singapore’s economic recovery and the fight against Covid-19.

Operating crew within the SIA Group have responded very positively to the exercise, with more than 90% of cabin crew and pilots signing up for the vaccine to date.

Mr Goh Choon Phong, chief executive officer, Singapore Airlines, said, “We are very encouraged by the strong take-up rate for the vaccine from our colleagues. Vaccinations will be key to the reopening of borders and to enhancing travel confidence, in tandem with robust testing regimes and the wide-ranging safe management measures that are in place on the ground and in the air. They offer greater protection for our people and provide an added layer of assurance to our customers.”

October 28, 2020

Mayo Clinic’s review of inflight service guides Delta’s safety response

A team of expert advisors from Mayo Clinic boarded a Delta A330-300 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last month – and never left the gate.

A team of expert advisors from Mayo Clinic boarded a Delta A330-300 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last month – and never left the gate.

They were there to experience a simulation of the inflight service Delta’s flight attendants deliver to customers every day and to share their views on key health and safety considerations as Delta continues to refine its processes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve asked Mayo Clinic to take a hard look at our food and beverage service, the way the flight attendants prepare the food, the way they deliver it to the customer, the way they interact with each other,” said Jaime Jewell, Delta’s director – inflight service brand strategy and customer experience. “We want to create an environment on the airplane that [customers] feel great about and that our crews feel great about, so they’re confident to come fly again.”

The Mayo Clinic team observed meal, snack and beverage service in all cabins; witnessed flight attendant announcements, interactions and other inflight responsibilities; and facilitated Q&A sessions throughout the day with Delta leaders and participants.

“Mayo Clinic has developed models to evaluate someone’s risk of [exposure to] COVID-19 on a flight,” said Dr. Eric Polley of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Health Sciences Research.

“We wanted to engage the people who are on the flight and use that information to better inform the risk models we’ve been developing.”

Mayo Clinic professor of medicine Christopher Wittich added: “We’re thinking about ways to help decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and looking at the amount of time masks are off, the data, the current science – putting that all together to make the best recommendations for policies and procedures for Delta.”

Delta and Mayo Clinic launched a partnership in June and have been working closely to review, enhance and continuously improve health and safety protocols.

“Mayo Clinic is helping us to find that balance between minimizing risk and exposure and doing it in a way that is genuinely warm and caring and feels like us,” said Jewell.

October 21, 2020

IATA welcomes report on COVID-19 risk while flying

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the release of the results of testing by the United States Transportation Command (US Transcom), which concluded the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard an aircraft is minimal.

The US Transcom testing, which was conducted in August, found that “the overall exposure risk from aerosolised pathogens, like coronavirus, is very low” on the types of airline aircraft typically contracted to move Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and their families, US Transcom stated.

More than 300 aerosol releases, simulating a passenger infected with COVID-19, were performed over eight days using United Airlines Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 twin-aisle aircraft. “Last week, IATA reported that since the start of 2020 there have been 44 cases of COVID-19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey, out of 1.2 billion passenger journeys in 2020. The US Transcom research provides further evidence that the risk of infection onboard an aircraft appears to be very low, and certainly lower than many other indoor environments,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

The US Transcom testing showed that the aerosol was “rapidly diluted by the high air exchange rates” of a typical aircraft cabin. Aerosol particles remained detectable for a period of less than six minutes on average. Both aircraft models tested removed particulate matter 15 times faster than a typical home ventilation system and five/six times faster “than the recommended design specifications for modern hospital operating or patient isolation rooms.”

Testing was done with and without a mask for the simulated infected passenger.

September 30, 2020

Helsinki Airport uses dogs to sniff out Covid-19

Finavia has welcomed Covid-19 dogs to Helsinki Airport.

The dogs’ sensitive noses are expected to speed up the process of identifying those infected with Covid-19.

“We are among the pioneers,” says Airport Director Ulla Lettijeff from Finavia. “As far as we know no other airport has attempted to use canine scent detection on such a large scale against Covid-19”

The findings of preliminary tests, conducted by a research group at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki, showed dogs are able to smell the virus with almost 100% certainty. They can also identify the virus days before the symptoms have even started. This is something that laboratory tests fail to do.

Dogs are also able to identify Covid-19 from a much smaller sample than the PCR tests used by health care professionals. The difference is significant, as a dog only needs 10-100 molecules to identify the virus, whereas test equipment requires 18,000,000.

September 23, 2020

CLIA announces mandatory core elements of health protocols

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced the adoption of mandatory core elements of a set of health protocols to be implemented as part of a phased-in, highly controlled resumption of operations.

The CLIA Global Board unanimously voted to adopt all of the listed core elements for an initial restart of limited operations in the Americas and operations related to U.S. ports. These core elements will be continuously evaluated and adjusted against the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the availability of new prevention, therapeutics, and mitigation measures.

Highlights of the core elements include: 100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation; mandatory wearing of masks by all passengers and crew onboard and during excursions whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained; physical distancing in terminals, onboard ships, on private islands and during shore excursions; air management and ventilation strategies to increase fresh air onboard and, where feasible, using enhanced filters and other technologies to mitigate risk; risk-based response plans tailored for each ship to manage medical needs, dedicated cabin capacity allocated for isolation and other operational measures, and advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine, medical facilities, and transportation.

Informed by leading scientists, medical experts, and health authorities, the core elements are the product of extensive work by CLIA’s oceangoing cruise line members and their renowned teams of science and medical experts, including the recommendations from the Healthy Sail panel established by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, as well as MSC’s Blue Ribbon group and Carnival Corporation’s collection of outside independent experts.

Other considerations included the effective protocols developed for the successful sailings in Europe by MSC Cruises, Costa, TUI Cruises, Ponant, Seadream, and others.

Read the full release here:

Associations call for EU travel restriction reform

Many of the industry’s leading associations have signed an open letter to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, requesting the proposed EU coordination framework for travel restrictions is made a top priority.

Read the full letter here.

September 16, 2020

WTTC calls for city ‘air corridors’ between key global cities to restore business travel

The restoration of ‘air corridors’ between the world’s top financial centres are vital to reviving international business travel and help kickstart the global economic recovery, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The WTTC, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, says it is crucial that international business travel resumes, following its near collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The WTTC is calling for the introduction of a pilot scheme, involving airport-based testing, followed by a second test just days later, for travel between the financial hubs of London and New York, with the aim of restarting business travel.

An analysis of Public Health England’s data by WTTC suggests two tests in quick succession could be 80% effective in identifying passengers with COVID-19, and thus reduce the quarantine period from 14 to four to six days or no quarantine at all.

The WTTC believes the restoration of international business travel across the Atlantic could benefit the entire travel and tourism sector, from airlines and hotels to travel management companies and ground transport providers, reviving tens of thousands of jobs and a multitude of companies which depend upon business travel for their survival.

However, the WTTC warns this will only happen if the UK Government takes a targeted approach, ditching blunt countrywide quarantines which have a devastating economic impact.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president & CEO, said: “While the recent ‘island policy’ introduced by the UK Government marks a step in the right direction with a more targeted approach, WTTC believes a laser-like focus is necessary to reopen key international business routes, which could provide a significant economic boost.

“Flights must be restored along ‘city corridors’ linking cities with similar low COVID-19 case numbers, such as between London and New York, Washington, Paris, Frankfurt, Dubai, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Shanghai.”

The WTTC claims the health and safety of travellers and those who work within the sector has always been its number one priority. It has urged the adoption of global health and safety protocols, through its ‘Safe Travels’ initiative, to provide assurance to travellers and those working within the sector.

It also says there is ample evidence from other countries which suggests only those who test positive for coronavirus should be quarantined.

September 9, 2020

Eurostar resumes full onboard catering offer

Eurostar is reinstating its full onboard catering offer following a period offering an amended service due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Travellers in Standard class are now able to choose from a range of food and drinks in Café Métropole, whilst those in Standard Premier and Business Premier can enjoy a meal served to their seat. The return of onboard catering follows the re-opening of Eurostar business lounges in August.

To reduce contact during food service some changes have been made. For example: lids are kept on dishes served at the seat and accompaniments such as bread and pastries are served in packaging to ensure minimal contact. In addition, anti-viral wipes and anti-viral hand gel are now offered to travellers receiving the at-seat food service and menus will soon be available online using a QR code. In Café Metropole, customers are advised to pay by card if possible, to remove contact with cash.

Both onboard and in stations, Eurostar has introduced new hygiene measures. A new seat map ensures travellers are seated at a safe distance apart respecting social distancing guidelines. Trains are deep cleaned before every journey, and cleaning teams are onboard to regularly disinfect high contact areas. Also, all travellers must wear a mask onboard and in stations, in line with government regulations.

August 24, 2020

Over 100 CEOs call for strong international leadership

The World Travel & Tourism Council and 120 of the world’s major travel and global business leaders have sent a letter urgently calling on the Heads of State and international opposition leaders to provide global leadership and collaboration to save travel and tourism worldwide.

The letter has been sent to the leading politians of the G7 group of countries (Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, UK and U.S) as well as Australia, South Korea and Spain, as the biggest source markets in travel and tourism and calls for strong action to support the industry and help save the millions of jobs already impacted.

The 120 leaders backing the call included; business leaders of major airlines, such as British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Jet2, WestJet and Virgin Atlantic; top international hotel groups, such as Accor, Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Mandarin Oriental, Marriott, Meliá Hotels and Radisson; and major tour operators & travel companies, such as Abercrombie & Kent, American Express, Carlson Wagonlit, Expedia, Travelport, TUI and Uber.

Despite Travel & Tourism’s crucial importance to the local and global economies, WTTC is gravely concerned there is no clear or internationally coordinated effort to protect this uniquely exposed sector. Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, says: “Who is in charge of getting us out of this crisis and will lead the world to save the jobs and secure the futures of the many millions of people globally? We have reached a stage where critical action is urgently needed.

Any measures taken in silos moving forward will only worsen the plight of millions of ordinary people. We need to transcend politics and put the millions of livelihoods, which have been affected by COVID-19, front and centre. This is not a binary solution or a choice between health on the one hand, and jobs, the economy and travel on the other. We can make strong progress on all these fronts if we follow the expert advice from science and learn from the past and positive experiences of others. WTTC and the other signatories of the letter, sent to the leaders of the world, are committed to working together to help resolve the worst crisis of our generation, and bring back the millions of jobs impacted. However, the private sector cannot do this alone. It is vital that the leaders of these countries come together and prioritise rescuing the world from this unprecedented crisis, by acting in an effective and coordinated way to bring back more than 120 million jobs and livelihoods affected.”

In the letter, WTTC has identified four measures which need concerted international framework and leadership to combat the coronavirus:

1. Wearing a mask: This should be mandatory on all modes of transport throughout the entire traveller journey, as well as when visiting any interior venue and in locations where there is restricted movement which results in close personal contact and required physical distancing cannot be maintained. According to medical evidence, such measures can reduce the risk of the spread by up to 92%.

2. Testing and contact tracing: We need governments to invest and agree on extensive, rapid, and reliable testing, ideally with results available in as quick as 90 minutes, and at a low cost, before departure and/ or after arrival (symptomatic and asymptomatic would-be travellers), supported by effective and agreed contact tracing tools. The application of one or multiple tests, with the second after five days, will help to isolate infected people.

3. Quarantine for positive tests only: Quarantine for healthy travellers, which only serves to damage the economy, should not be necessary if testing is in place before departure and/or on arrival, and effective containment measures are taken five days later. This can replace blanket quarantine in a more targeted and effective way significantly reducing the negative impact on jobs and the economy.

4. Reinforcing global protocols and standardise measures: The adoption of global health and safety protocols will help rebuild traveller confidence and ensure a consistent, coordinated and aligned approach of the travel experience in addition to significantly reducing the risk of infection. We also support the Public Health Corridor Concept which promotes a clean and safe end-to-end journey.

WTTC research has shown that even a modest resumption of travelling can have massive economic benefits and bring thousands of desperately needed jobs back; providing a critical boost for the struggling Travel & Tourism sector and generating desperately needed GDP for economies left floundering after being struck by the pandemic.

August 24, 2020

UAE focuses on testing

The UAE’s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship has launched a pioneering project to promote safe travel for airline passengers flying into the United Arab Emirates.

Working with the European diagnostic services provider, Unilabs, and Pure Health, the largest laboratory network in the Gulf countries council (GCC), the project will test airline passengers flying into the United Arab Emirates for COVID-19.

Unilabs has already set up more than 70 collection centers across Europe, with an initial focus on the largest European air markets. The programme is already up and running in France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, Switzerland, Czechia, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Austria, with Germany, Norway, Finland, and Peru coming soon. In some markets, Unilabs works with local partners. As testing ramps up, more collection centers and countries will be added.

“The UAE has entrusted Pure Health with safeguarding it against any incoming Covid-19 threats, worldwide. This responsibility requires us to ensure we only partner with verified and accredited facilities around the world. That is why we have partnered with Unilabs to ensure that the screening process is of the highest quality and to ensure an excellent customer service for the travelers,” said Pramodh B. N., Head of Commercial Operations at Pure Health.

The UAE recently issued regulations that require all travelers flying into the UAE to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test. Travellers without such a certificate are refused entry onto the flight.

The system is similar to the ESTA process in the United States. The traveller visits, chooses a testing location, selects a time slot, and completes the test at the agreed time and place. Test results are then transmitted to the UAE authorities, who use the data to cross-check arriving travelers against the border control database.

August 24, 2020

UK travel trade fights for jobs

UK travel trade chiefs estimate over 90,000 jobs are already affected in the wider travel industry by measures to control the pandemic. They have set out new plan to Save Future Travel.

Following a survey of its Members, ABTA – The Travel Association reveals that 39,000 jobs have already been lost or placed at risk across the outbound travel sector since the crisis started, and when supply chains are also considered this number amounts to over 90,000 people affected.

The situation when it comes to jobs in the travel industry has reached a critical point, with measures to control the pandemic affecting the market, which is why, today, ABTA has written to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask for tailored support in the form of a package of measures to support businesses and employees.

ABTA finds the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a significant help for businesses in the travel industry, with nine in ten businesses taking part in the scheme to support staff. However, 65% of businesses have either had to make redundancies or have started a consultation process. Despite this, there is optimism that the travel industry can recover, if offered the right support by Government, with four in ten businesses confident travel can return to 2019 levels by 2022.

To do this, according to ABTA’s plan, the Government should adopt a regionalised approach to quarantine rules. In the absence of a regional approach to Foreign Office travel advice and quarantine rules the Association highlights it is difficult to see how the UK can reopen travel to critical trade partners, including the US, in the foreseeable future.

At the same time, if the travel industry is to retain the maximum number of jobs, it is vital that consumers are incentivised to book holidays. With the peak booking season starting from December, ABTA is therefore urging the Government to use the Autumn Budget to announce an Air Passenger Duty (APD) holiday covering Summer 2021.

If the Government does not act with tailored support for travel, as it has for other sectors, 83% of firms estimate that it will have a critical or serious impact on their business.

To Save Future Travel, ABTA’s plan is to:

1. Regionalise quarantine:
moving to a regionalised quarantine and Foreign Office travel advice policy will provide additional certainty for businesses and consumers.

2. Introduce testing: a testing regime will enable travel to resume to major global trading partners and mitigate the risk of infection from high risk countries.

3. Grant an APD holiday: to boost demand for travel, including Summer holidays in 2021
Provide recovery grants and other business support measures: travel agents, the vast majority of whom are SMEs, receive the majority of their income through commission that is paid on the departure, so these businesses will need support to get them through to the next major travel period next Easter. The Government can support these businesses by issuing another round of grants, based on those offered to Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure businesses earlier in the crisis, and extending other business support measures into 2021/22.

4. Give ongoing salary support: with the furlough scheme drawing to a close at the end of October, the government should consider extending support for businesses that have not seen a significant recovery in revenues, as has happened elsewhere such as Australia. Targeting salary support where it is needed until March 2021 would reduce the cost to HM Treasury and could preserve tens of thousands of jobs in travel.

While public health is rightly the Government’s priority right now, few sectors in the UK economy have been hit as hard as travel by the measures used to control the pandemic. With only 65% of businesses operating again, many parts of the travel industry remain shuttered, such as cruise and school travel operators. Moreover, if a second wave inspired a further shutdown, 96% of travel businesses report it would have a critical or serious impact on their ability to survive.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s Chief Executive, says: “With the Government’s stop start measures, the restart of travel has not gone as hoped for the industry, and sadly businesses continue to be adversely affected and jobs are being lost at an alarming rate. Coming towards the end of the traditional period for peak booking, we have hit a critical point as existing Government measures to support businesses begin to taper off, the consequence of which, according to this survey of ABTA Members will be ruinous for more people’s livelihoods.

“Travel desperately needs the Government in its next review to provide tailored support or tens of thousands more jobs will be lost. We have already seen well-known and respected businesses that would normally be successful falling into administration, and more are sadly set to follow unless the Government can Save Future Travel.”

June 17, 2020

Connect the silos, fast

Lance Hayward heads up a consultancy of 17 inflight experts who are together calling on the industry to step up its efforts at collaboration to shape the new normal before it is too late…

Hayward says: “The post pandemic impact of COVID 19 on aviation and its support industries is proving to be far more damaging than any major crises faced in the past. The urgent economic need to return to ‘normal’ (both from a business and individual perspective), is being weighed against the risk of a second wave of infection triggered by the premature and inconsistent easing of restrictions.

A silo approach is being adopted by governments across the world who have issued guidelines based on their independent risk assessment and interpretation of the situation. Airline and airport translations of the health and safety guidelines issued by their respective safety executives has also been variable, with a wide range of PPE standards, aircraft seat configurations and processes being communicated. Every point of contact throughout the supply chain is being re-evaluated and re-engineered due to the new safety guidelines and the anticipated significant volume reduction in the short to medium term.

“Unfortunately, all this activity is adding to the confusion of passengers who are already faced with multiple concerns to overcome before feeling confident to travel again, e.g. Is it safe?; Am I insured?; Can I afford it?; Can the business afford it?; Will I still have a job in the future?; Will I be allowed to travel when I get to the airport?; Do I still need to travel with the advances in communication technology?; Will I be refunded if I don’t travel?; Will I need to self-isolate on my arrival/return?

The aviation industry, as a whole, needs to act quickly to introduce stringent, coordinated bio-security measures and then communicate them effectively. The need for collaborative, proactive intervention and strong leadership is clear. If we allow this pandemic to run its course, and we continue to react in a piecemeal fashion to its challenges, it will be many years before recovery is seen and the devastating list of business casualties will continue to grow.

In amongst the personal tragedies that people have faced during this pandemic, we have also heard of many surprising positive aspects of lockdown, in our personal lives. It’s now time for the spirit of collaboration seen in our communities to extend to the business world for the benefit of all.

Our common purpose and immediate focus must be for the industry to recover in a safe and sustainable manner as soon as possible, and when it does, what will the new rules of engagement be?”

Hayward and his team are committed to supporting those shaping the new normal and getting the industry they love back on its feet. For further assistance contact:

June 10, 2020

Get set to fly

The five leading airline caterers of the world have agreed new protocols for safety and hygiene to ensure food and beverage inflight is safe for passengers this summer as restrictions on cross-border travel are lifted.

Working thtough the Airline Catering Association (ACA), the guidelines apply stringent safety precautions at all levels of the inflight catering supply chain.

Fabio Gamba, managing director of the Airline Catering Association (ACA), emphasises: “Food is not connected to virus spread and strict food safety measures refined through decades of air travel remain in place to make sure that all food leaving our kitchens is safe.”

ACA members including gategroup, LSG Group, dnata, Newrest and Do & Co have adopted new ACA COVID-19 Guidelines designed specifically to help members navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACA COVID-19 Guidelines are built on four guiding principles, known as the 4P’s, which allow for proper risk assessment and the continuation of safe inflight catering: People; Premises/Policies/Processes & Procedures; and Procurement.

The Guidelines provide additional controls and checklists tailored to the local risk landscape and adaptable in an ever-changing world. They also ensure that measures such as social distancing and personal protective equipment are used in medium- to high-risk stages of the pandemic. Even in a low-risk stage, these guidelines support timely facility adaptation to changes. In the event an infection cluster in a particular region, distancing measures must be implemented without supply-chain disruption.

The association insists: “Inflight catering does not carry a risk of transmitting the coronavirus. According to the World Health Organisation, there is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging. Aircraft design and travel regulations make person-to-person contact on aircraft lower than other forms of contact, such as at home or in offices. The air quality inside an aircraft cabin is exceptionally clean due to vertical air flow and the use of HEPA filters, as well as strict measures to stop infected persons from travelling.”

The statement reminds governments that travel and tourism provide 10% of jobs and GDP globally, with inflight catering a vital pillar of the industry. The ACA aims is to provide a forum for cooperation among its members and the operators in the sector and estimates that in 2019 the sector employed 170,000 workers and produced 2.7bn meals.
The ACA COVID-19 Guidelines are published here.

May 27, 2020

Caterers collaborate on COVID-19 guidelines

Airports Council International (ACI) World and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have jointly issued a paper laying out a pathway for restarting the aviation industry insisting requirements must be based on science and be applied consistently.

Entitled ‘Safely Restarting Aviation – ACI and IATA Joint Approach’, the paper combined airline and airport input to build an achievable roadmap for resuming operations and reassuring the travelling public around health and safety.

The joint statement proposes a layered approach of measures across the passenger journey to minimise COVID-19 risks at airports and onboard aircraft, and to prevent aviation becoming a source of international re-infection. It insists measures be globally consistent and subject to continued review, improvement, and removal when no longer required, to ensure an even recovery.

Both organisations are part of the COVID-19 Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) being led by the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and designed to bring government and industry together.

ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, said: “There is currently no single measure that could mitigate all the risks of restarting air travel but we believe a globally-consistent, outcome-based approach represents the most effective way of balancing risk mitigation with the need to unlock economies and enable travel.”

IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, added: “It is important to remember that the risk of transmission onboard is very low. And we are determined that aviation will not be a significant source of re-infection. We are working continuously with governments to ensure that any measures put in place are done so consistently and with scientific backing. That is key to restoring public confidence so the benefits of safely re-starting aviation can be realised.”

In a separate report, entitled ‘Bio-security for Air Transport: A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation’, IATA has proposed a layering of temporary bio-security measures focused around government collection of passenger data pre-departure, including health information, gathered in the same way as eVisa or electronic travel authorisation programmes.

At the airports, IATA foresees protective measures including temperature screening by trained government staff at airport entry, physical distancing queue management, face coverings, self-service and remote check-ins, more efficient boarding and redesigned gate areas, plus wide-spread availability of hand sanitisers.

Inflight, IATA foresees face coverings from passengers and crew, simplified cabin service and pre-packaged catering to reduce interaction between passengers and crew, plus reduced congregation of passengers in the cabin, for example by prohibiting queues for washrooms, and enhanced and more frequent deep cleaning of the cabin.

Arrival airports will need temperature screening, automated customs and boarder controls using mobile apps and biometrics, accelerated baggage reclaim and processing to reduce congestion, and robust contact tracing systems.

May 20, 2020

New values for the new normal

Marc Warde at Niche Free-From Kitchen and Libero Meals looks at the long term impact of COVID-19 on the inflight catering sector…

The effects of the coronavirus, COVID-19, will be felt by this industry for a long time to come. Most food production companies are trying to diversify into other industries beyond aviation right now, looking at retail and healthcare for example. Where they can, businesses have furloughed staff, maintaining just the core people to ride out the storm and deliver what service is needed.

Whatever happens going forward, however long it takes, it will be a slow start up. Aircrafts won’t be flying full initially, there will likely be fewer aircraft flying and sadly the chances are there will be fewer airlines too. People will be holidaying closer to home more for the next year or so, as the risk of catching the virus will remain until a vaccine is found, and many non-essential business trips or indeed long-haul holidays just won’t be a choice for many economically anyway.

In the UK, the Foreign Office has imposed an indefinite non-essential travel ban and while governments worldwide will want their economies to open up, they won’t want to risk overseas visitors bringing a new spike in contagion for a while to come.

The shut down has given airlines and suppliers an unprecedented amount of time to think and rethink the infinite detail of flying and when people do get to fly again their expectations will be greater than ever because flights will undoubtedly flights will be more expensive to cover new costs and low loads.

It’s hard to say exactly what the new landscape might look like. Socially distanced seating and boarding, pre-boarding medical checks, quarantine maybe – but most of us will want and crave to be around people, to see our extended families and friends, and because we have been denied it for a while perhaps we will also come to value those things more. Perhaps people will become a little kinder, a little more helpful, value their relationships more and, in their work life, want to ensure their customers have the very best experience more than ever before.

Airlines and their suppliers are so resilient and creative, they cope annually with long winters and busy summers, they adapt to the changes each and every year. COVID-19 is like the worst long winter, like no other in our living memory.

Like all businesses they must cut their cloth to suit their measure, some of the follies and frivolity may be jettisoned in that process and the focus will be on delivering exemplary product, services and experiences whilst maintaining costs. That’s a fine balance for any business.

I believe there will be much greater focus on the details of sustainability and mindful products as we move out of this. Consciences and consciousness have been awoken. This horrible disease has touched so many in a profound and personal way and it would be a disservice to all the huge losses, if when we are up and running again, we don’t do things to the best of our collective ability, consciously.

May 13, 2020

IATA gets real

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has updated its guidance on onboard best practice around COVID-19 and stressed the low-risk of disease transmission inflight.

Insisting that social distancing is financially unsustainable and unnecessary inflight, IATA recommends mandatory face coverings for passengers and masks for crew but director general and ceo, Alexandre de Juniac, insists: “The cabin environment naturally makes transmission of viruses difficult for a variety of reasons. That helps explain why we have seen little evidence of onboard transmission. In the immediate term, our aim is to make the cabin environment even safer with effective measures so that passengers and crew can return to travel with confidence. Screening, face coverings and masks are among the many layers of measures that we are recommending. Leaving the middle seat empty, however, is not.”

The association says there important differences between flying and other modes of public transport which help aviation counter the risk of COVID-19 contagion. The virus is spread primarily by respiratory droplets and as all passengers face forward, face-to-face interaction is limited and seats provide a barrier to transmission forward to aft in the cabin

Air flow from ceiling to floor further reduces the potential for transmission forward or aft in the cabin, and air flow rates are high and not conducive to droplet spread in the same way as in other indoor environments. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters on modern aircraft clean cabin air to operating theatre quality, further assisted by high levels of fresh air circulation.

Juniac adds: “We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit.”

In addition to face coverings, other temporary bio-security measures being proposed include: temperature screening of passengers, airport workers and travellers, new boarding and deplaning processes that reduce contact; limiting movement within the cabin during flight; more frequent and deeper cabin cleaning; simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement and interaction with passengers.

See the full updated guidelines here.

Riskline identifies progress

Riskline, a leading travel risk intelligence company, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, has highlighted five countries to watch which it claims are now on a pathway to recovery from COVID-19.

Based on data gathered by their analysts worldwide, the report says: “With over three million confirmed cases and upwards of 200,000 fatalities in the world, there are few signs of the COVID-19 pandemic slowing its rampage across the globe. Thousands of people are contracting the virus every day, with the United States, Spain, Italy, France and Iran some of the worst-affected countries. However, some other countries appear to have managed to slow down the rate of new cases and now seem to be on a slow and possibly difficult path towards recovery.”

Those identified as moving forward are:

China: China, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, seems to have greatly controlled the transmission of the virus. Around 89% of coronavirus patients in China have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals, according to reports from the country’s National Health Commission. The severity and scale of the containment measures implemented by the Chinese government have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of daily cases.

South Korea: South Korea’s ‘trace, test and treat’ strategy has helped in flattening the COVID-19 curve significantly – a model that is admired by many other Western countries. Unlike most affected countries, South Korea has relied on widespread testing and digital tracking of suspected cases to contain the pandemic, instead of imposing lockdowns or curfews.

Hong Kong: Despite its proximity to China, Hong Kong succeeded in containing the outbreak by taking measures to prevent transmissions internally. Authorities implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone coming from China. They were also quick to set up quarantine facilities and negative-pressure beds for proper isolation, and enforce social-distancing measures such as working from home, cancelling public events and closing schools.

Taiwan: Taiwan has managed to successfully contain the virus, even though it is located just over 128km (80 miles) from mainland China. Learning from the previous SARS outbreak, the government sprung into action as soon as word broke about a pneumonia-like disease in Wuhan in December 2019. They began extensive screening of travellers from Wuhan from 31 December, set up a system to track those in self-quarantine, and ramped up production of medical equipment for domestic use in January. They were also the first country to ban flights from Wuhan, on 26 January. The utilisation of big-data for intensive health monitoring of the population as well as Taiwan’s excellent public healthcare system helped limit the spread of the virus.

Australia: While its geographic isolation and low-population density are inherent advantages, the government’s strong public response has brought the pandemic well under-control. Australia was one of the first western countries to ban flights from China on 1 February 2020, a decision which helped stave-off the spread of the infection. It also implemented a far-reaching indefinite ban on all international arrivals on 20 March, effectively cutting-off transmission of the virus from overseas, which accounted for the majority of cases in the country. Strict social distancing measures such as stay-at-home orders also helped bring down community transmission. Crucially, health authorities conducted extensive community testing for the virus in high-risk locations, resulting in one of the highest per capita rates of diagnostic pathology testing for COVID-19 in the world and allowing the infection curve to be dramatically suppressed in a matter of weeks rather than months.

Air Canada adds CleanCare+

Air Canada has launched Air Canada CleanCare+, a comprehensive programme for personal safety and enhanced aircraft grooming, designed to provide customers greater peace of mind during all stages of travel.

The new programme is designed to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 through such measures as mandatory pre-flight customer temperature checks in addition to required health questionnaires, seat assignment policies to allow for more personal space in Economy Class on all flights until June 30, 2020, and passenger care kits for hand cleaning and hygiene.

To supplement these individual measures, Air Canada CleanCare+ will also strengthen the airline’s cabin grooming standards with the introduction of electrostatic spraying of cabin interiors in addition to the use of hospital grade disinfectant and specialised techniques to maintain cabin cleanliness across its fleet.

Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive officer of Air Canada says: “We are the first airline in the Americas to administer pre-flight temperature checks system-wide. With Air Canada CleanCare+, we are introducing a comprehensive new programme to give each customer added assurance for their well-being throughout all stages of their journey – and we intend to continue enhancing with best practices from around the world, including increased use of screening tools, such as blood oxygen level testing, as they become available.

“Air Canada CleanCare+ will not only provide protections at the personal level, by better monitoring our customers’ fitness to fly and providing for more personal space in Economy Class, but it also sets new standards for cabin cleanliness and ensures our employees have the best tools to maintain it.”

Malaysia mandates facemasks

Malaysia Airlines has introduced mandatory facemasks for staff and passengers.

Its update statement reads: “In the interest of the safety and wellbeing of our staff and customers, Malaysia Airlines now requires all passengers and crew to wear facemasks on both domestic and international flights.”

This new policy will apply to adults and children (excluding infants), from check-in at their departure airport to baggage collection upon arrival at their destination, and the airline reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone who does not adhere to this policy.

Passengers are also encouraged to carry additional supplies of face mask and it is recommended that these are changed every four hours. Passengers are also encouraged to carry hand sanitisers to use throughout their journey.

The statement continues: “We realise the small inconvenience that this may cause for many of our loyal passengers, and wish to sincerely thank them for their understanding and cooperation during this challenging time. Malaysia Airlines continues to work tirelessly to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone onboard.”

May 6, 2020

Airlines tighten rules on face masks

From Monday (May 4) Lufthansa and its sister airlines – Eurowings, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, and Brussels Airlines – will insist on passengers covering their nose and mouth onboard flights.

Passengers are also encouraged to wear face coverings throughout the entire journey, including their passage through the airport.

Lufthansa is expecting passengers to bring their own face coverings, although it said masks will be available onboard for emergencies. All Lufthansa Group flight attendants in direct contact with customers will also wear masks.

The new rules will apply until at least August 31 2020 and mean Lufthansa has relaxed regulations relating to keeping neighbouring seats free in Economy and Premium Economy Class.

“Due to the current low occupancy rate, seats will nevertheless be allocated as widely as possible throughout the cabin,” it said.

Low-cost airline Wizz Air, which re-launched flights from Luton on Friday, is also making it compulsory for passengers to wear face masks. It has created a new in-flight safety video explaining the new measures.

US airlines which had previously introduced masks for their crew are now making masks mandatory for passengers too. From Monday passengers will have to wear masks on United Airlines and Delta Airlines flights while the rules come into force from May 11 on American Airlines.

To promote safe flying, Delta extended temporary measures on all flights until at least the end of June, reducing the total number of passengers per flight, blocking middle seats, and boarding passengers by row, starting from the rear of the aircraft toward the front.

Jet Blue and Frontier Airlines have already made masks compulsory for passengers. Joanna Geraghty, President and Chief Operating Officer, JetBlue, says: “Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself it’s about protecting those around you. This is the new flying etiquette. Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others. We are also asking our customers to follow these CDC guidelines in the airport as well.”

This new policy will require customers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning.

Following Transport Canada’s directive, Air Canada is making its recommended face-covering practice mandatory as an additional safeguard for passengers and crew.

Passengers will be required to show that they have a suitable face-covering prior to boarding. Travellers who do not have their own face-covering will be provided with a suitable mask at security by CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority).

Emirates and Dubai International Airport (DXB) are stepping up their precautionary measures at the airport and onboard. All cabin crew, boarding agents and ground staff in direct contact with passengers will now wear personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes a protective disposable gown over their uniforms, and a safety visor, in addition to masks and gloves.

At Dubai International Airport, gloves and masks are mandatory for all customers and employees. Thermal scanners monitor the temperatures of all passengers and employees stepping into the airport. Physical distancing indicators have been placed on the ground and at waiting areas to help travellers maintain the necessary distance during check-in and boarding.The airport team has also installed protective barriers at each check-in desk to provide additional safety reassurance to passengers and employees during interaction over the counter.

Onboard Emirates’ flights, seats are pre-allocated with vacant seats placed between individual passengers or family groups in observance of physical distancing protocols.

Emirates has also modified its inflight services for health and safety reasons. Food and beverages continue to be offered in the form of bento-style boxes to reduce contact between the crew and customers during meal service, and minimise risk of interaction. The personal boxes provide customers with sandwiches, beverages, snacks and desserts.

Similarly, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus by touch, magazines and other print reading material are temporarily unavailable. Cabin baggage are currently not accepted on flights; carry-on items allowed in the cabin are limited to laptop, handbag, briefcase or baby items. All other items have to be checked in, and Emirates will add the cabin baggage allowance to customers’ check-in baggage allowance. Also, customers have to wear their masks and gloves throughout their journey from check-in until they disembark.

All Emirates aircraft will go through enhanced cleaning and disinfection processes in Dubai, after each journey.

April 22, 2020

IFSA campaigns for supplier aid

IFSA and APEX have rallied together to help ensure U.S. financial relief packages for airlines also include support for caterers and other suppliers. Now they are rolling out similar efforts to lobby European authorities to urgently support for the sector.

Joe Leader, CEO IFSA and APEX, says: “Our efforts proved successful in the U.S. because in addition to the relief for airlines, airline contractors and caterers were allocated $3B in the U.S. CARES Act. Now we have written to the European Commissioner, Adina Vălean, as a part of a continuous push in Europe and beyond.

“The European Union must support aviation through this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis or risk permanently losing the airline industry advantage held for decades. Airlines alongside key suppliers need shelter from the storm so that we may help our world come ‘flying back’ with success. APEX, IFSA, and countless others are rallying for our world to stay safe today, stay strong for tomorrow, and to ‘flight back’ for our future.”

The letter calls on the EU to provide financial relief specifically for airline suppliers and vendors including ‘airline caterers, food suppliers, systems manufacturers and installers, connectivity companies, content distributors, and other key suppliers that enable customer-centric airline travel.’

It welcomes initiatives already emerging to support airlines but insists: ‘airline supply chain companies need your support equally’ adding: “The business of these key inflight airline suppliers rely on the free circulation of movement of both people and airlines. These are the airline caterers, suppliers, and vendors that provide the soul of every flight experience. They are quintessential to airline industry recovery and therefore to the European economy.”

March 31, 2020

Suppliers pivot to support virus containment

Three stalwart industry suppliers are pivoting their operations to support efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus worldwide.

Kaelis ceo Federico Heitz says: “It is the responsibility of companies to take action in difficult times. With this in mind, we are dedicating our powerful supply-chain management capabilities to the fight against COVID-19 not only for our customers, but also for any company or government institution that might need it globally.

“Currently, there is a worldwide shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and some customers that want to protect their staff have reached out asking for help. For this reason we are dedicating our full resources, developed over the last 23 years of managing supply chains globally, to the fight against COVID-19 by offering PPE products.

The company can supply masks, goggles, gloves, sanitizing gels and wipes and other protective gear and invites contacts to reach out at

Likewise Malton Inflight is pivoting its activities to try and help. Projects & marketing manager, Alex Oakley, says: “Production is largely getting back to normal in China after a very challenging couple of months with the spread of COVID-19 and an enforced extension to the Chinese New Year holiday period. Factories were closed for a considerable amount of time, which inevitably impacted delivery schedules for companies all over the world.

“Luckily it seems as though the Chinese authorities have now got the virus more or less under control, a situation we can take heart from. Some positivity going forward is that China now has the capability to produce (at exceptional speed), the tools with which other countries will need to fight this virus, products like testing kits, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes and face masks.

“We have been able to pivot our offering and leverage our extensive sourcing network throughout Asia to gain access to these much needed supplies and get them where they need to be.

“We are now offering these out to all of our clients and have seen a huge surge in interest as companies put measures in place to ensure they are doing their part to help stop the spread. We are also contacting local authorities and government agencies to offer a much more economically viable home-testing kit than what is currently available. We need support on this from bodies like Public Health England to ensure it meets their individual requirements, although it is a testing kit which is already being widely used in China and has certification from TUV Rheinland.

“Situations such as this really do bring out the best and worst in both people and corporations, thankfully we are seeing so much positivity and support from our customers, suppliers, staff and stakeholders in general.

“We are doing our best to help on is by keeping prices low and not engaging in any of the profiteering that we have unfortunately seen in some areas. We urge anyone who needs these critical supplies to contact us immediately to find out how we can help, you can do this by sending an email to or by visiting our a class=”industryLink” href=”” target=”blank”>webpage.

Johannes Kloess, md Galileo Watermark, adds: “Throughout this difficult time we’re also trying to support all governments, healthcare organisations, NGOs, and anyone who is in need of any PPE equipment, anywhere in the world with our logistics capabilities.”

What are you doing to give those fighting this world crisis #ahelpinghand. Let us know and let’s build a movement positive industry support.;;

March 30, 2020

Standing in solidarity

As the Coronavirus continues to spread at an alarming level, the Airport Services Association (AS) and the Airline Catering Association (ACA) are working hard to address the devastating economic and social impact of this crisis for the aviation industry.

ACA md Fabio Gamba says: “We stand in solidarity with the hardworking men and women in this industry who continue to be on the frontline of this current pandemic. Just as importantly, we are working behind the scenes to support the recovery of our industry as fast as possible.

Thus far we have posted the basic measures for employees to observe as to avoid putting people’s health and others at risk. We have also issued a press release calling for an international effort to implement a relief package for the air transport industry, including service providers.

We have sent multiple letters to authorities including to the EU-27 and EEA outlining the necessity to immediately allocate tax deferment measures and credit line facilities for service providers. A similar letter was also sent in Brazil and a number of African and Middle Eastern countries on request of members. Additionally, we also reached out with ACI-E to EU-27 and EEA on taking swift measures for laid-off workers and for people still working at and around airports as well as with the social partners to EC, EP and European Council on the need to protect to financially cover employees.

These are just the first steps in protecting our industry and its people. Moving forwards, we will also maintain regular meetings with airports, airlines and ATC providers to find relief measures acceptable to all, that don’t benefit one sector to the detriment of the others. We are also coordinating meetings with lobbying firms in Europe and the US to make sure grants, loans and credit facilities will trickle down to the whole industry, in a fair and equitable way.

Despite all this activity, ACA and ASA still wish they could do more on behalf of the industry. With up to 70% of our workforce being either laid off, on unpaid leave or in a very precarious situation such as drastic reduction of working time, we need to continue to make our voice heard. For today and tomorrow. We must also prepare for the much-hoped for recovery and avoid becoming a cause of protraction of the crisis. This is why we are pushing for fast-track re-employment procedures everywhere as soon as possible.

Much has been done, but there is still much to do to support our community. If you would like to get in touch, ASA and ACA very much welcome your feedback and ideas right now.”

March 24, 2020

APEX/IFSA launch letters campaign for supplier support

The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) is encouraging governments worldwide to issue immediate tax relief for the airline industry in the wake of disruption caused by COVID-19. And in collaboration with IFSA it is encouraging airline vendors and suppliers to reach out to the US government in a bid to secure financial relief too.

Taxation is set to cost airlines estimated $136 billion this year and APEX has put forward three key recommendations: Reduce all possible global tax burdens on airlines during this stressful time; Suspend “hidden taxes” such as forced slot and gate utilisation; Remove any new aviation taxes/penalties from consideration.

So far any financial support appears to be allotted primarily to airlines but the association urges supplier associations and suppliers themselves to run a letter writing campaign highlighting “airline caterers, food suppliers, systems manufacturers and installers, connectivity companies, and content distributors” as just some of the fields that may also require financial support.

A sample letter is available here and the association believes that by everyone taking action we hope we can initiate the support and change that is needed.

Following initial steps taken by the European Commission and the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week to temporarily alleviate airlines from their airport slot usage obligations, APEX insists that these rules should be fully relaxed through to the end of the summer schedule, effective immediately, as airlines expect to see a long-term impact on bookings.

APEX’s position aligns with IATA’s recent request to suspend global slot rules due to COVID-19. According to IATA, the impact of the coronavirus could result in passenger airlines losing up to $113bn (£87bn) in revenues this year.

LSG Group braced and ready for the COVID-19 challenge

The LSG Group has reported a positive year of growth for 2019 with new contracts, new business locations and new partnerships established, and now providing a solid foundation for coping with the current coronavirus crisis.

“Our annual result, with record sales and earnings growth, is definitely something to be proud of,” says Dr. Kristin Neumann, chief financial officer and labour director of the LSG Group. “The year was not an easy one for our organisation, which had to manage the ongoing sales activities related to our European business, including some expert brands, and compensate for the loss of two major clients the prior year. This has given us the strength for what is coming ahead with the coronavirus, which will surely keep us on our toes and present us with an even greater challenge. We are in a severe crisis, but we are well prepared for it.”

The business closed the 2019 financial year with consolidated revenues of EUR 3.4 billion. Adjusted for currency effects, the result was up 2.3% over the previous year. The Group achieved an adjusted EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) of EUR 128 million, an increase of 11% over 2018.

In 2020, the LSG Group expects to clearly feel the impact of the global spread of coronavirus. The statement accepts: “Massive entry restrictions and travel warnings, the halting of business travel by many companies and event cancellations have brought air traffic to a partial standstill that is also affecting the catering business. It is not yet possible to predict how strongly these events will be reflected in the company’s future business results.”

Erdmann Rauer, chief executive officer of the LSG Group, adds: “We are aware that we have to be innovative and flexible in a rapidly changing industry. We have to respond precisely to market trends, position ourselves in the premium environment and use innovative technology.”

In 2019 LSG Sky Chefs signed contract extensions with Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and AirBaltic last year and the group successfully took on the management of Japan Airlines’ lounges at its Frankfurt station. Newly-opened Customer Service Centers (CSCs) in Nairobi (Kenya), Phoenix (USA) and Novosibirsk (Russia) helped to further strengthen its network capabilities worldwide.

“When it comes to partnerships and digitalisation, we are one step ahead,” says Erdmann Rauer, in reference to its cooperation with Barilla, the world’s largest pasta producer, and the additional business successes of Retail inMotion.

The onboard retail brand took over the onboard sales of the Cathay Pacific Group in 2019 and was named In-Flight Retailer of the Year at the Frontier Awards. “Of course, we have not come to the end of our development process by any means, adds Rauer. “We want to offer customers and consumers ever new products and applications. They are demanding tailor-made concepts, which we already offer today and will expand in the future.”

Gategroup prioritises safety

Gategroup Holding AG has published its 2019 full-year results showing positive growth, and is working to address the impact of COVID-19 across the inflight industry.

A spokesman said: “We will continue to work in close cooperation with authorities, customers and airports to assess and address the impact of COVID-19 on our industry. Safety is our number one priority. In addition to the stringent health and safety practices currently in place, we have implemented additional measures to protect the health and safety of our employees, customers, passengers and general public. These measures often are above and beyond applicable regulatory requirements.”

The year end results show revenues remained stable at CHF 5.0 billion in 2019 (vs. CHF 4.9 billion in 2018, an increase of +0.5 %). Positive organic growth of +4.1% was partially offset by a decrease from divestments in non-core businesses (-1.1%) and negative currency impacts

EBITDA (earnings before interest taxes, depreciation, and amortization) reached CHF 440.3 million in 2019 (vs. CHF 343.9 million in 2018, an increase of +28%); EBITDA margin improved by 191 basis points (bps) to 8.9%. Excluding accounting impacts from the adaption of financial reporting standards as per 1 January 2019, EBITDA margin would have increased by 27 bps. Improved cash generation from operations at CHF 295.7 million (vs. CHF 255.7 million in 2018, an increase of +15.6%).

Chairman of the Board, Richard Ong, said: “With the introduction of the successful Gateway 2020 strategy in 2015, gategroup has proven its successful vision of pushing the boundaries of focused growth and commercial innovation. They have done so by driving an exceptional culinary excellence, leveraging data analytics to better understand passenger behaviors and introducing sustainable equipment solutions and best practices in their operations and for their customers.

“Under the guidance of its strong management team, gategroup has steadily become the most diversified and innovative company in the industry. Their planned acquisition of LSG Europe this year is yet another exciting milestone for the company. Having been selected by Lufthansa as their long-term partner provides gategroup the opportunity to further accelerate the transformation of the industry.

“The start to 2020 was extraordinary given COVID-19 (Coronavirus) which impacts the global economy and aviation industry specically. Companies around the world, including gategroup, must and will remain agile in order to support their employees, customers and passengers. We will continue to oer our full support. As shareholders we remain committed to the airline industry and gategroup’s long-term prospects for innovation and ongoing value creation.”

Monty’s Bakehouse moves to secure its supply chain

Monty’s Bakehouse has segregated its teams and implemented extensive supply chain contingency planning to ensure it can go ‘above and beyond’ in its COVID-19 support for airlines.

MD Matt Crane, says: “These are unprecedented times. We have to protect the supply chain, stay close to our clients to support them wherever we can and adapt deliveries to suit. Thankfully our product is inherently robust as it is frozen, has a long life and packaged. I never thought we would say this but Brexit planning has actually helped as we were already securing our supply chain and now have contingency of supply across seven manufacturing units, four different warehouse locations and four different transport companies to ensure reliable delivery.” 

At its UK HQ, the company has created two teams in separate buildings so if one team has to self-isolate the other continues, we will move to home working but still bring the teams back in a segregated manner when the time is right.

Crane adds: “All our airline clients are suffering greatly and by implication so are we, but it remains our role to go the extra mile to help protect them and support our industry in any way we can.”

Airline alliances join forces to call for COVID-19 support

Global airline alliances oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance have jointly called on governments and stakeholders to take action to alleviate the unprecedented challenges faced by the global airline industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three alliances, which represent almost 60 airlines around the world that contribute more than half of global airline capacity, are strongly supporting the request previously made by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for regulators to suspend slot usage rules for the northern summer 2020 season as the airline industry suffers from extraordinary reductions in passenger demand.

The alliances said that they welcome the moves in recent days by some regulators, such as the European Commission and the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They also request that regulators consider extending the suspensions for the entire operating season.

The impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry is, indeed, significant, with IATA estimating up to $113 billion in revenue losses for global passenger airlines. The impact is expected to have a ripple effect through the value chain that supports the airline industry. The forecasted revenue loss scenario does not include travel restrictions recently imposed by the US and other governments. US restrictions on passengers from the Schengen Area will place pressure on the US-Schengen market, valued at over $20 billion in 2019.

To alleviate the immense pressures faced by airlines in the current operating environment, and in support of IATA’s statement on 12 March, the three alliances urge governments worldwide to prepare for the broad economic effects from actions taken by states to contain the spread of COVID-19, and to evaluate all possible means to assist the airline industry during this unprecedented period.

The alliances also call on other stakeholders to provide support. For example, airport operators are urged to evaluate landing charges and fees to mitigate the financial pressure faced by airlines due to a severe decline in passenger demand.

Star Alliance ceo Jeffrey Goh added: “The unprecedented circumstances triggered by the coronavirus outbreak pose an existential threat not only to the airline industry but more generally to global trade and commerce, and social connectivity. As airlines stretch their limits to manage the crisis, it is equally critical for governments and stakeholders to avoid further burdens and step up with measures, as some have, that will ensure the future of the travel industry.”

This article was originally published by Future Travel Experience

IATA charts the COVID damage

At the start of this month (Mar 5) IATA stated that airline share prices have fallen nearly 25% since the COVID-19 outbreak began, some 21 percentage points greater than the decline that occurred at a similar point during the SARS crisis of 2003.

To take into account the evolving situation with COVID-19, IATA estimated the potential impact on passenger revenues based on two possible scenarios.

The first scenario focuses on a limited spread, which includes markets with more than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases (as of 2 March) experiencing a sharp downturn followed by a “V-shaped recovery” profile. The markets accounted for in this scenario and their anticipated fall in passenger numbers, due to COVID-19, as are as follows: China (-23%), Japan (-12%), Singapore (-10%), South Korea (-14%), Italy (-24%), France (-10%), Germany (-10%), and Iran (-16%). Additionally, Asia (excluding China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea) would be expected to see an 11% fall in demand. Europe (excluding Italy, France and Germany) would see a 7% fall in demand and the Middle East (excluding Iran) would see a 7% fall in demand. Globally, this fall in demand translates to an 11% worldwide passenger revenue loss equal to $63 billion.

However, should there be a wider spread, taking into account all markets that currently have 10 or more confirmed COVID-19 cases, the losses in revenues could grow to $113bn, which accounts for 19% of global revenues. Financially, that would be on a scale equivalent to what the industry experienced in the Global Financial Crisis.

While airlines are taking proactive measures to limit the impact of the virus, such as cutting back on capacity and costs, IATA insists that this won’t be enough to offset the revenue impact.

“The turn of events as a result of COVID-19 is almost without precedent,” says Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, IATA. “In little over two months, the industry’s prospects in much of the world have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

“It is unclear how the virus will develop, but whether we see the impact contained to a few markets and a $63 billion revenue loss, or a broader impact leading to a $113 billion loss of revenue, this is a crisis.

“Many airlines are cutting capacity and taking emergency measures to reduce costs. Governments must take note. Airlines are doing their best to stay afloat as they perform the vital task of linking the world’s economies. As governments look to stimulus measures, the airline industry will need consideration for relief on taxes, charges and slot allocation. These are extraordinary times.”

This article was originally published by Future Travel Experience

Airports call for collaboration

The Airports Council International (ACI) World believes the predicted global economic impact on the airports sector will be “pronounced” with airport passenger traffic for the first quarter of 2020 down at least 12% compared to projections.

Currently, Asia-Pacific is the most impacted region with passenger traffic volumes down 24% as compared to previous forecasts for the first quarter of 2020. Europe and the Middle East are also expected to be significantly impacted by reductions in traffic. North America is expected to see similar declines in the second quarter of 2020 with recent service reductions announced last week in North America and with more expected in the coming weeks.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, global airport revenues for the first quarter of 2020 were forecast to reach close to $39.5 billion. ACI now estimates a loss of revenues of at least $4.3 billion. Most of the losses are expected to occur in the Asia-Pacific region with a difference of $3 billion in projected revenue. This is approximately equal to the total annual revenues of two major European or Asian hubs combined.

Europe is so far the second most-impacted region, while all other regions will see the impact of the loss of passengers as more data becomes available.

While APEX and IATA call for an ease of the “80/20 rule” which forces airlines to keep flying routes even when planes are empty to preserve their slots, ACI World on the other hand says that the suspension of such slot rules can “jeopardise the ability for countries to stay connected with the world which will in turn have knock on effects to economies”.

ACI World is instead proposing a “market-by-market review” on slot allocation. For instance, in markets that are severely impacted, a suspension of the 80/20 rule may be considered for a limited period, in consultation with airport operators, airlines and slot coordinators.

ACI World Director General Angela Gittens explained: “The airport industry recognises that all stakeholders of the aviation ecosystem are heavily impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and as such favours a strengthened cooperation between airports, airlines, and regulatory authorities as the industry responds to the outbreak.”

This article was originally published by Future Travel Experience

March 18, 2020

Aviation bodies call for international action on COVID-19

The Airport Services Association (ASA) and the Airline Catering Association (ACA) have issued a joint statement calling on international bodies to take ‘strong measures’ to prevent the breakdown of air transport services due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

They say action is also needed to avoid countries coming to a standstill.

Fabio Gamba, the head of ASA and ACA, said: “The economic effects of the coronavirus disproportionately affect the hundreds of thousands of men and women working in this industry. We need to take a measured, common-sense approach to this issue as many airport services worldwide continue to operate and provide their invaluable service in this time of crisis.”

Whilst welcoming the seat of measures that governments are taking to alleviate the hardships caused by the pandemic, the ASA and ACA said further action must be taken at an international level, not country by country.

Leading regulators and aviation industry associations must urgently implement a strong action plan, including but not limited to the immediate waiving of taxes and charges that currently put an undue burden on aviation, they said.

The industry must be supported to ensure employment in the short-term and the viability of airport and airline services for the future, they added.

The associations said they are ready to discuss which and how these measures should be applied with the responsible authorities.

March 10, 2020

APEX/IFSA reassures Congress on flight safety

APEX/IFSA ceo, Dr Joe Leader, addressed US Congress last week with reassurance that it remains safe to fly despite the COVID-19 outbreak. During a congressional hearing before members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Leader put forward a list of best practices for airlines to follow to both limit risk and reassure passengers.

View video here

The nine steps to best practice as advised by APEX are as follows:

1. Clearly Communicate Passenger / Staff Safety Measures
Openly explain to customers the steps that your airline is taking to make certain they are able to travel safely and easily.

2. Consider Broader Waivers for Changes and Cancellations
Work to minimise concern about future travel by considering broader waivers for booking changes and cancellations to provide greater passenger certainty.

3. Enhance Traceability of Customer Contact Details
Review procedures for managing passenger contact details. Governments and agencies may at some point require airlines to contact passengers after a flight in the unlikely event a passenger is later found to be infected with COVID-19.

4. Passengers that Appear Sick Should Not Be Allowed to Board / Take Off without a Doctor’s Approval
Consider alerting passengers that if they are travelling with symptoms, they may be denied boarding. If customers have a visible cough / sneezing / tissue usage, then airlines may wish to require that passengers have a doctor’s note to board their flight. For example, seasonal allergies may be mistaken for something worse without such documentation. The greatest risk remains passenger perception and denied ability to deplane at an international destination. In geographies minimally affected now, consider giving advance notice to passengers that visibly ill passengers traveling after a set date in the future will require a doctor’s note certifying non-contagiousness and their ability to safely travel.

5. Encourage Flight Crew Awareness
Advise passengers that flight crews are encouraged to watch for individuals with clear symptoms that may concern other passengers. Consider a protocol for denying boarding. In geographies worldwide, the Captain of the aircraft has the ability to deny boarding for the safety and security of the aircraft.

6. Have Clear Aircraft Decontamination Procedures in Place
Review and update aircraft decontamination plans as needed and consider sharing them to further assure the public. Demonstrate full readiness for customers and crew. In Asia, airlines have had to quite rapidly launch programs of this nature. In other areas of the world, airlines should consider how to conduct aircraft decontamination at base and outlying stations.

7. Have In-Flight Aircraft Decontamination Procedures in Place
Consider providing crew with disinfectants to use on lavatory handles and demonstrate during safety procedures how to use hand towels to open and close lavatory doors after washing hands as an additional safety precaution. The WHO has pointed to viral loads in fecal matter as equal to those in sneezes. The lavatory is a high-risk point for COVID-19 infected individuals that are not exhibiting any symptoms.

8. Work with Airport / Government Authorities
In affected regions, work with airport and government authorities to establish airports as safe zones by not allowing visibly ill individuals into the airport and past security. Further, work with airport and governmental authorities for security line decontamination procedures. Consider offering passengers hand-sanitizing and washing ability after they have passed through security.

9. Enhance the Ability for Airline / Supplier Staff to Call in Sick
Take any steps needed to enable truthful self-reporting by airline and supplier employees. Consider steps to mitigate the economic impact on employees that miss work while ill. By taking proactive steps to encourage honest reporting by employees, airlines and suppliers reduce risks for their team members and customers.

March 5, 2020

Breaking news: Hamburg events postponed

Reed Exhibitions, the organiser of the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX), World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) and the Passenger Experience Conference (PEC), has today said both exhibitions and the Passenger Experience Conference will be postponed following the escalation of COVID-19 in Europe. New dates are not yet confirmed.

Speaking about the announcement, Katie Murphy, Portfolio Director at Reed Exhibitions, said: “The health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors and staff is our number one priority. In close coordination with all partners involved, we will promptly announce an alternative date for the events.

“We have been closely monitoring the situation and notices issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as the German Federal Government and Hamburg local authorities. While it is disappointing to postpone the events, given the ongoing developments related to COVID-19, we believe it is the best course of action for all involved.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We trust that postponing the events will provide the international passenger experience industry the opportunity to achieve their business objectives later in the year and we are working to have confirmed dates as soon as possible. We thank our exhibitors, partners, suppliers and visitors for their support.”

Onboard Hospitality steps up its industry support

In response to Reed Exhibition’s above postponements and the challenges now facing the travel sector, Onboard Hospitality is stepping up its publishing initiatives to help support industry colleagues at this most difficult time.

The print edition of the magazine and the Onboard Hospitality Tech Innovation supplement will go ahead as planned and will be mailed directly to all key buyers and suppliers worldwide.

In addition, in the week that WTCE would have taken place (March 30 – April 3), the editorial team will publish Onboard Hospitality Daily – sharing all the news, launches, product developments and the Onboard Hospitality Awards results, as would have been showcased in Hamburg.

Editor Julie Baxter said: “At a time of uncertainty, the need to keep in contact with friends and colleagues has never been greater. To help keep your connections strong, we will create a virtual ‘show around’ opportunity sharing all the news and developments suppliers have prepared, through the digital space. Do get in touch with any launches you had planned to share on stand.”

The Onboard Hospitality DAILY will include:

• Onboard Hospitality Award winners
• News
• Special announcements
• Product showcases
• Trends
• Expert insights
• Interviews

How to get involved…

February 24, 2020

IATA warns of “very tough year for airlines”

The aviation industry could experience its first decline in passenger demand this year since the global financial crisis of 2008-9, IATA has stated this week as it warns of “a very tough year for airlines”.

Widespread flight cancellations and suspensions enforced by the spread of COVID-19 could see a 4.7% hit to global passenger demand and lost revenue of $29.3 billion in 2020, says IATA.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says its initial assessment of the impact of the latest coronavirus outbreak shows a potential 13% full-year loss of passenger demand for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Growth of 4.8% had previously been forecast for 2020, meaning an estimated 8.2% full-year contraction in the region compared to 2019 demand levels.

That would translate into a $27.8 billion revenue loss in 2020 for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region, says IATA, the bulk of which would be felt by carriers registered in China.

Carriers outside of Asia-Pacific are expected to take a $1.5 billion hit, taking total lost revenue to $29.3 billion, representing a 4.7% reduction in demand.

In December, IATA forecast global growth of 4.1% for the industry in 2020, meaning an overall 0.6% global contraction in passenger demand is now forecast for 2020.

IATA says its estimates are based on a scenario where COVID-19 has a similar v-shaped impact on demand that was experienced during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

“These are challenging times for the global air transport industry,” says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“Stopping the spread of the virus is the top priority. Airlines are following the guidance of the World Health Organization and other public health authorities to keep passengers safe, the world connected, and the virus contained.”

De Juniac continues: “The sharp downturn in demand as a result of COVID-19 will have a financial impact on airlines – severe for those particularly exposed to the China market.

“We estimate that global traffic will be reduced by 4.7% by the virus, which could more than offset the growth we previously forecast and cause the first overall decline in demand since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09.

“This will be a very tough year for airlines.”

February 19, 2020

Latest statement from Reed

Reed, the organiser of WTCE/ AIX, has said that the shows will run as scheduled amid COVID-19 concerns:

“The Passenger Experience Conference, Aircraft Interiors Expo and World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo will run as scheduled.

“We are monitoring the Coronavirus situation very closely. We will take appropriate actions in accordance with the notices issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – and local German authorities.

“We are in regular contact with the Hamburg Messe and airport to align on all actions regarding the virus. The health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors and staff is our number one priority.”

Read the full statement here.

February 7, 2020

Finnair CEO Topi Manner expects the coronavirus outbreak to have a “relatively limited” impact on the airline’s financials and believes the aviation market will be pretty quick to recover once the situation is under control.

Manner said the reason he expects the impact to be relativity small is that the period after Chinese New Year is typically the slowest of the year and the “weakest in terms of profitability,” reports

“The way the situation will unfold from here and develop from here remains to be seen. The visibility is low, and then it can swing basically either way. And that is something that we are taking into consideration in our guidance for this year,” Manner told analysts on an earnings call on Friday.

“What is clear, however, is that eventually, this will pass. And if we look at the experiences from SARS and similar viruses in the past. I think that the conclusion is clear at the conclusion is that the situation is of temporary nature. And when the recovery starts, then the recovery will also be relatively fast in terms of global aviation.”

Airlines react to coronavirus outbreak

February 4, 2020

As of January 30 2020, the novel coronavirus virus has spread to 20 countries and has over 8,100 confirmed cases. Sixteen airlines have suspended flights or significantly reduced capacity to and from China and suppliers within the onboard sector are reacting and preparing for the ongoing health emergency.

Amongst those airlines amending their schedules are Virgin Atlantic, Air France, Air New Zealand, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Southern Airlines, Delta, Finnair, KLM, Lufthansa Group Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways and United Airlines.

Global travel and data analytics firm Cirium reports nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak began.Peter Morris, chief economist at Ascend by Cirium, says: “The industry is playing its part to help prevent the spread of the virus, but the outbreak will inevitably cause significant disruption of schedules and travel patterns in the short and medium term.”

Qantas group CEO Alan Joyce has said he fears airlines with heavy exposure to the China market could face serious financial difficulties and while it is early to make too many predictions “it will be survival of the fittest in this market”.

The somewhat similar SARS outbreak in 2003 cost the global economy around US$40 billion and the Asia Pacific aviation market lost around US$6 billion in revenue. The Chinese market is estimated to have grown eight times since then, with the addition of many more low cost carriers, often operating on thin margins.

The Cathay Pacific Group is among those carriers which have already announced service modifications in the region, for both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights to and from mainland China, with immediate effect and until further notice.

On those mainland China flights continuing, the meal service in First and Business Class cabins is being modified to comprise a single tray with appetiser, main course and dessert served together. Trolley services are being suspended and the meal offering in First will be the same as that offered in Business.

Passengers travelling in Premium Economy and Economy on medium to long-duration mainland China flights will be served a disposable snack bag including a hot handheld snack and other items. Amenities including hot towels, pillows, blankets and magazines will also not be offered to passengers in any classes during this period. Inflight duty-free sales will also be temporarily suspended.

Containment checklist

Edwin Lim, managing director of airline inflight services, PTE, and a partner at The Hayward Partnership, is based in Asia and has produced an anti-virus containment checklist.

He recommends all frontline staff are briefed on risks, symptoms and preventive measures; protective gear be issued to crew and customers, including facemasks and hand sanitisers; service delivery processes should be modified to limit exposure in the cabin (e.g. single tray service for BC instead of multiple course service); encourage customers to bring personal drink bottles; reduce exposure to contaminated items by removing blankets, pillows, table linen, and rotable catering equipment; and remove cold dishes from meal service. Read the full checklist here.

Impact on production

Federico Heitz, CEO of supplier Kaelis, says his company has decided to move all its current productions from the Wuhan region to other factories further away from the outbreak. “We are in constant communications with our partners outside China so that if the risk continues we are be able to keep the production and the supply chain going so our delivery time does not change drastically. In our headquarters, we have a special team that is currently in contact with the Spanish and European Union Health Agencies as well as the OMS to keep tracking all the information regarding this issue. If airlines have any specific doubt, we encourage them to contact their regional director,” he says.