Travel: We’re Taking to the Skies Again

Normality is still a long way off in the aviation sector. But demand for national and international connections is on the rise. Passengers have to keep a few things in mind.

In pandemic times, airplanes in the sky were a rare sight. Photo: DEKRA

Things are literally looking up. With the progress of vaccinations against the coronavirus, airlines are also experiencing an increase in demand. However, the airline industry is still operating far below pre-crisis levels. According to the latest May 2021 figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry is showing a 63 percent worldwide decline when compared to May of two years ago. The percentage figure refers to the “paid passenger kilometers” industry standard. Not directly comparable but more illustrative of what the corona pandemic means for flying, are the details provided by Eurocontrol – the organization that coordinates European air traffic control. According to their data, there were an average of 2,500 flights to and from Germany per day in the first week of June. This represents a drop of almost 60 percent compared to the pre-crisis year of 2019. By the beginning of June, 1.7 million flights that had Germany as their origin or destination had been canceled since the outbreak of the pandemic.

International air traffic still restricted

Globally, the industry is focusing mainly on domestic flights, or on flights within limited regions such as the EU, because fewer travel restrictions apply. Bookings for June were considered encouraging. But it will probably take longer before international air traffic returns to normal. In particular, countries that have so far come through the pandemic with few corona deaths and outbreaks are likely to remain closed off for longer. One example is Australia: Even for locals, international flights are difficult and severely restricted. In a radio interview with broadcaster 2GB, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently wouldn’t even commit to reopening the borders by Christmas 2022.

Passengers who want to fly from Germany to their vacation destinations should try to find out about the changes and uncertainties the corona pandemic entails in advance. The German Air Transport Association for example offers a checklist for this purpose. IATA provides an initial overview of regulations for air travelers on a world map and a “Travel Pass”, an app that can be used to digitally manage test and vaccination certificates in conjunction with airline tickets. That being said, the German COVID certificate is valid EU-wide – digitally in the Corona-Warn-App and the CovPass app, or on paper. It shows a passenger’s status: vaccinated, tested, or recovered.

Airports: DEKRA seal certifies monitoring of hygiene standards

Düsseldorf Airport has been awarded a “DEKRA Trusted Facility”. Photo: Flughafen Düsseldorf, Andreas Wiese

Meanwhile, airports are adapting their hygiene concepts to the anticipated increase in demand. The airports in Düsseldorf and Nuremberg, for example, got themselves certified as “DEKRA Trusted Facilities”. The seal confirms that the two airports’ hygiene standards and preventive measures against the spread of coronavirus are effective and continuously monitored. It covers routing, spacing rules, ventilation, disinfection, and cleaning in all areas where passengers travel. The audit was carried out by DEKRA auditors, who monitor the measures taken at regular intervals.

“The criteria for awarding the seal are based on guidelines of the World Health Organization,” explains Tim Breithaupt, Key Account Manager of Management Systems Germany at DEKRA Certification GmbH. “The seal helps visualize the on-site performance of people responsible for the hygiene concepts. This also creates a sense of security among passengers.” All around the world, DEKRA audits the hygiene concepts of facilities where many people come together – from airports over tourist destinations to production halls.

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Safe on the ground

Coronavirus and aircraft reliability are just two aspects of airport safety. Passengers and their luggage have to get on board. Planes have to be refueled, maintained, air-conditioned, or possibly de-iced to get them ready for operation between landing and takeoff. All these tasks require a whole arsenal of vehicles and systems that must always function reliably on the tarmac. In technical jargon, they’re called aircraft ground support equipment. In Germany, the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health requires a competent person to regularly inspect this aircraft ground support equipment. Similar national regulations exist in other EU countries. DEKRA experts take on this task in Europe by request. They provide support not only for periodic inspections, but also when equipment is put into circulation or commissioned, or after the completion of vehicle or machine modifications. Last but not least, the experts also assist in determining the extent and causes of damages, right through to the value assessment of machinery and equipment.

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