U.N. agency task force urges uniform approach to flying during coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Rows of empty seats of an American Airline flight are seen, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) disruption continues across the global industry, during a flight between Washington D.C. and Miami, in Washington, U.S.
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MONTREAL/CHICAGO (Reuters) - A United Nations aviation-led task force is urging airlines, airports and countries to come up with a uniform approach to flying safely during the coronavirus pandemic, although it stopped short of providing specific requirements for the hard hit industry's recovery.

"States and industry need to work together to put in place harmonized or mutually accepted risk-based measures to protect passengers, crew, and other staff throughout the travel experience," said the report seen by Reuters.

The report, which gives guidelines for regulators and airlines to restart the air transport system globally, is to be reviewed by the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) governing council on Monday.

Travelers, airlines and airports are grappling with a hodgepodge of rules put in place during the pandemic that make flying different in almost every country.

Aviation experts have said that a common set of safety practices will be instrumental in restoring passengers confidence.

While the Council Aviation Recovery Task Force highlighted the importance of physical distancing of at least a meter (3.3 ft) in airports, it did not spell out specific distancing measures on planes, which has been a subject of industry debate.

Global airline industry group IATA has said carriers will not be able to make a profit if they limit their normal capacity, unless they drastically increased airfares.

"Our work must recognize the need to reduce public health risk while being sensitive to what is operationally feasible for airlines, airports and other aviation interests," the report said.

The report includes recommendations that masks or face coverings should be warn by travelers.

The last trigger for widespread changes in air travel was the 2001 attacks in the United States, which ushered in new security measures.

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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