COVID-19: The State of Play

July 05 2020


Serving airports worldwide, Hadid International Services (HADID) has continued to support a range of flight types. However, amid global lockdown restrictions and the decline in commercial flights, HADID has applied additional focus on specialised operations such as repatriation, special cargo and emergency flights, providing services such as flight permits, flight planning, ground handling and aircraft refuelling. 

As restrictions in some countries begin to ease, HADID continues to monitor the situation, ensuring seamless operations for aircraft operators, governments and humanitarian agencies amongst others. Keeping abreast of the latest information, HADID serves as a valuable resource for all flight types and categories.

Back to Business?

As governments begin to cautiously lift restrictions on travel, airports previously closed for passenger flights are planning for phased travel re-starts in line with approvals from authorities. Though some airports have been reopening, it may be a while before passenger flights recommence and there is en-masse travel. Industry bodies such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) caution a U-shaped recovery for the aviation sector, as opposed to a more positive V-shaped recovery, meaning it could be several years before the number of passenger flights reach pre-2020 levels. Experts are unable to predict what ‘back to business’ will truly mean for aviation, but it is clear that passengers will need to feel confident enough to fly once lockdown restrictions ease. 

Some carriers have expressed plans to resume parts of their normal flight schedules from as early as July, with the caveat that passengers will be required to socially distance, wear face masks and undergo temperature checks prior to boarding.  It is likely the airport experience will be significantly changed, as it was post 2001. Where at that time, the primary concern was security, now it is to safeguard health and safety to improve passenger confidence. Lessons could be learned from parts of Asia where a number of airports made significant changes following previous outbreaks including SARS. 

Varying Degrees of Restriction and Information Overload

There have been a bewildering number of NOTAMS, declarations, decrees and reports for operators and crews to interpret. Inevitably, there has also been an overabundance of misinformation as well as misinterpretation of information. In Europe alone, some countries implemented strong precautionary measures early on, whilst others applied varying degrees of measures and restrictions as the health crisis evolved.  Meanwhile, airports and aviation bodies are calling for a unified stance with bilateral agreements between countries to minimise impact as restrictions ease. 

Currently, wherever one is travelling, there is likely to be some kind of inbound travel restriction or outright flight ban of some sort.  Most countries impose a 14-day quarantine. However, some countries may allow some leeway. Italy for instance, allows a 72hr delay to the start of the isolation period when travelling for ‘essential work’ purposes. It is important for operators to be aware of latest NOTAMS and official government information. Contact the HADID team 24/7 to disseminate the relevant information at your behest. With expert knowledge of international regulations and operational procedures, HADID Operations Control Centres process requests on a daily basis for a range of flight types across the world.

Situational Snapshot

Analysing select airports which serve both General and Commercial Aviation may help to better understand the current circumstances: 

UK - London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL) is one of the world’s busiest international airports, handling nearly 81 million passengers in 2019. EGLL tells a similar story to many major airports across the world. The airport recorded a 97% year-on-year decrease in passenger numbers through April, supporting essential travel for just 200,000 people, the same number it would typically serve in a single day. Many of those passengers were on chartered repatriation flights. 

During these uncertain times, cargo specific flights remained active, and even increased in some weeks, due to the demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other critical supplies. Whilst passenger numbers are expected to remain weak until after lockdown restrictions are fully lifted, EGLL like many other airports, is putting measures in place to prepare for the recommencement of regular operations. These measures include increased sanitisation and heightened cleaning procedures, providing PPE to staff, installing additional hand sanitisers, new signage to help passengers socially distance and the closure of all non-essential passenger facilities. 

At the time of writing, EGLL is operating only two of its usual four terminals and has moved to single runway operations, alternating between two runways on a weekly basis. 

HADID continues to provide uninterrupted services at EGLL. Operators flying passengers into the UK must comply with the new general aircraft declaration process and return a General Aircraft Declaration (GAD). Contact HADID directly with any queries or for additional information on EGLL procedures.

UAE - Dubai International Airport
Despite ongoing flight restrictions and measures, on Thursday 21 May, Emirates Airlines resumed scheduled flight services Dubai International Airport (IATA: DXB, ICAO: OMDB) to 9 destinations so far, including London Heathrow. The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has announced its intent to welcome tourists from as early as July. OMDB, another of the world’s busiest in terms of international traffic, has been a first mover in terms of a “gradual remobilisation” plan. Dubai Airports have been taking strong precautionary measures early and throughout the crisis to ensure the safety of passengers, staff and flight crews. These include facility closures, health checks, crew isolation, sanitisation procedures and the provision of PPE. Additional measures include UV disinfecting and COVID-19 tests are now being conducted prior to boarding Emirates flights.

Until 21 May flight operations, were restricted to critical flights such as repatriation, cargo and emergency flights at OMDB and at Dubai World Central (IATA: DWC, ICAO: OMDW). HADID has expertise in serving these flight categories internationally.

For repatriation flights, effective since 12 April, Emirates has been operating passenger services to select destinations from OMDB’s Terminal 3. All departing passengers are required to undergo thermal scanning at the terminal.   

As has been the case elsewhere, cargo-only flights have seen a dramatic increase at OMDB. A number of airlines, including Emirates SkyCargo and Flydubai, have been permitted to operate an average of 110 weekly flights because of an increased demand for pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and other critical goods. HADID continues to work closely with its aviation partners both in the UAE and beyond, to support cargo operations, making use of available capacity and prioritising flights which are carrying medical supplies. Additional guidance can be found on the UAE GCAA website or by contacting HADID.

France - Paris–Le Bourget Airport 
In Q4 of 2019, HADID opened a new office at Paris–Le Bourget Airport (IATA: LBG, ICAO: LFPB). Dedicated to General Aviation, it is one of Europe’s busiest airports for private jet operations. 

French borders are due to reopen, initially with Switzerland and Germany, from 15 June. No date has been announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. A health certificate showing the traveller does not have the virus will be required on entry until at least July. Alternatively, they will be required to enter into 14 days’ self-isolation. A déclaration de déplacement (certifying the reason for travel and proof of address) should be completed for domestic travel beyond 100km from place of residence. Some flights are operating. 

LFPB is still operating but with strict safety procedures, again allowing only special operations such as repatriation and medical flights. LFPB also understand how crucial it is to ensure confidence for their clientele once restrictions ease.  Airport crews are working hard to ensure well sanitised facilities and aircraft. Ground transport staff and aircraft crews are routinely health checked and operationally isolated. As a general aviation airport, passengers can expect less person-to-person contact and faster transits than at busier commercial hubs. 

France, which announced detailed roadmaps for phased exits from their strict lockdowns, with restrictions to be loosened progressively and varying from region to region. However, its international flight restrictions will remain in place until further notice. It is not likely that entry restrictions will be lifted for non-European tourists before August. Foreign passengers have not been allowed to enter France, with the exception of EU citizens and their spouses or children as well as returning citizens with long term resident permits/visas in France and the EU. 

Italy - Riviera Airport
As with France, Italy is beginning to ease its lockdown restrictions, but not its international flight restrictions just yet. Borders are due to reopen to tourists on 3 June. Some flights are operating and one airport is open per region (Rome Ciampino and Terminal 1 at Rome Fiumicino Airport are closed).  Again, holidays in Italy will only be possible for EU citizens. Non-EU travellers to Italy will most likely have to wait until the Autumn.

HADID has a special partnership with Riviera Airport (IATA: ALL, ICAO: LIMG) for the development of a new Executive Aviation Terminal and the team there eagerly await an end to the crisis so they can once again welcome clients. A series of upgrades and improvements have been underway at LIMG since its new ownership in 2016. Sadly, the pandemic hit Italy hard and fast, before many of the new airport upgrades could be displayed to the public. LIMG remains open for emergency flights as well as state, sanitary, ferry and navigation flight check operations by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, ENAV. Strategically located along the Franco-Italian Riviera LIMG ideal for medical and emergency flights, executive travel and for technical stops.

Due to their specialisation in General Aviation, the HADID teams at both LFPB and LIMG are able to report directly on their observations for GA/BA flights in Europe. 

China

China amongst other countries in Asia have seen some success in combating the spread of COVID-19 through testing, surveillance, lockdowns and stringent restrictions. At its peak, air travel demand shrunk in China by over 80% compared to the previous year. However, domestic travel started to bounce back in March – down 63% and domestic passenger yields have begun to stabilise. 

As per the current regulations from CAAC and local government, only humanitarian, cargo, evacuation and special flights approved via diplomatic channels are permitted to land in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

International inbound flights remain largely restricted. At major destinations such as Beijing, travellers are required to enter quarantine for 14 days at designated locations assigned by the Beijing authorities. It is likely other cities across China will follow suit with these measures soon. Guangzhou and Shanghai also require 14 days of mandatory quarantine for travellers from, or who have transited through, France, Germany, Spain, the US, Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea in the preceding 14 days. At Wenzhou and Hangzhou, all international inbound flights are suspended. 

Africa

Across Africa, as with Europe, countries vary wildly in their specific restriction measures and timeframes. The information you will find from government websites and embassies will also vary in detail. We have outlined a brief snapshot of the current situation (at the time of writing) for 4 countries in which HADID has teams on ground. 

HADID’s teams across Africa have expert local knowledge and long-standing relationships with Civil Aviation Authorities. Contact HADID for updates or if you require more detailed, country specific, information.

Algeria
Algeria has closed its borders until further notice. Algeria closed all land borders and suspended scheduled non-cargo international air travel as of 17 March. Exempt are state aircraft, cargo flights, MEDEVAC flights and technical landings where crews and passengers do not disembark as well as private purposes flights and repatriation flights (from 23 April). Domestic flights were suspended as of 22 March. 

Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the few countries which did not impose heavy restrictions on air traffic, permitting a full range of flight categories including commercial flights. Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (IATA: ADD, ICAO: HAAB) and other international ports of arrival, have put in place additional measures to screen passengers arriving, departing or transiting through Ethiopia. The authorities announced effective 23 March, all travellers will be placed in a mandatory quarantine at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel for 14 days at the passenger’s expense. Diplomats will be quarantined at their respective embassies. According to the emergency governance of COVID-19 pandemic, carriage by air of corpse with the COVID-19 pandemic is prohibited from/to any aerodrome in Ethiopia.

Kenya
Since 25 March, Kenya suspended all international flights and those who entered Kenya between 23 and 25 March were subject to mandatory quarantine at a government facility. On 11 May, Kenya extended the ban on commercial flights for an additional 30 days, with the exception of fights arriving to evacuate foreign nationals. Kenyan citizens, or foreigners with a valid residence permit, will be allowed to enter Kenya but are required to self-quarantine. The restrictions do not apply to domestic flights, cargo flights operating to and from airports of entry and exit, overflights, aircraft in a state of emergency, technical stops where passengers do not disembark, operations related to humanitarian aid, medevac, repatriation and diplomatic flights where approved by the appropriate authority.

Namibia
Early on, Namibia took fairly strict measures banning travel into Namibia from all countries, effective 24 March. At present, citizens and permanent residents are also not allowed to leave the country. Citizens and permanent residents will only be admitted into the country “if their mission is critical to national interest”. Those who are permitted to enter under said circumstances must observe mandatory quarantine for 14 days. 

Summary

At least 93 percent of the global population now live in countries with COVID-19 related travel restrictions, with approximately 3 billion people residing in countries enforcing complete border closures to foreigners.

As mentioned previously, providing updates on all countries around the world would be far beyond the scope of this article. However, with a strong global network and local experts on ground at airports around the world, HADID is well positioned to provide reliable and updated information upon request.

HADID’s round-the-clock Operations Control Centres (OCC) are staffed by highly knowledgeable, certified teams which support organisations and operators, regardless of size, to ensure successful and seamless flights.

Our knowledge of international regulations and operational procedures allows us to coordinate flights of all types and categories including emergency, cargo, special cargo, repatriation and humanitarian aid operations worldwide.


Contact us:

Email:                                ops@hadid.aero

Phone (HQ Dubai):      +971 4 205 3000

Fax (HQ Dubai):            +971 4 205 3030

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Disclaimer:
*This article is intended to provide oversight of the current situation in select countries and should not be used as an official reference to obtain travel advice or updates on travel related restrictions. The views and opinions expressed herein, do not necessarily reflect those of Hadid International Services as an organisation, its leadership or its affiliates.