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21st Feb 2024

EU states agree on corona hygiene standards for aviation

  • Major airlines are also calling for a joint coronavirus testing programme in order to resume Europe-US flights (Photo: European Commission)

EU member states agreed to common hygiene standards on planes and airports in order to help curb the spread of new coronavirus infections, German transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, announced on Thursday (23 July).

Measures adopted in a videoconference meeting include mouth-and-nose protection for all passengers from six years old, better information for passengers and compliance with social distancing at airports during security checks and check-in - even if this results in delays or long queues.

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"I am pleased that the German proposal was accepted by my colleagues at the European level and that we could agree on these uniform standards," Scheuer said after the conference.

EU officials also agreed that high fresh-air quota in planes must be guaranteed. However, the middle seat does not have to remain unoccupied, according to Reuters.

The set of common rules respond to airlines' demands, after different standards had caused confusion among travellers.

Nevertheless, this agreement still has to be formally approved by the EU transport ministers in their next meeting, when they are also expected to discuss the economic situation of airlines and airports.

The EU has established exemptions for unused landing and slots rights until October, but many airlines want an extension of that.

Trans-Atlantic resumption?

Additionally, major airlines are calling for a joint coronavirus testing programme in order to resume trans-Atlantic travel.

"Given the unquestioned importance of trans-Atlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses, we believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the US and Europe," according to their letter sent both to US vice-president Mike Pence and the EU's home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

"We recognise that testing presents a number of challenges. However, we believe that a pilot [ie prototype] testing programme for the transatlantic market could be an excellent opportunity for government and industry to work together," it adds.

The EU started opening external borders in July, but the US was not part of the "safe list" of countries from which the bloc allows non-essential travel.

Earlier this month, EU officials updated the safe list and decided to remove Serbia and Montenegro due to the increase of coronavirus infections there.

Although the list will be again updated at the end of the month, the US has still one of the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world.

EU second wave?

Meanwhile, the increase in the number of new coronavirus infections in Europe during the last days has raised alarm bells.

As a result, some EU countries are starting to face what seems the beginning of the second coronavirus wave.

Luxembourg, Romania, Bulgaria, Sweden and Portugal have the highest rates of new Covid-19 infections in the European Union - followed by Spain, Croatia and Belgium, according to the latest data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

'Passengers' became 'lenders' to airlines hit by pandemic

When airlines ignore refund claims, reject them or are only willing to offer vouchers or rebooking, they act against EU regulations. "In each of these cases airlines use their customers as lenders," warns one legal expert.

EU Commission clash with countries over travel refund

Twelve EU countries have asked the commission to temporarily suspend rules that require travel operators to provide cash refunds for cancelled trips. The commission argues consumers have to be protected - and that vouchers should be made more attractive.

Spain fears tourism blow amid 'second wave' measures

Several European countries are now warning citizens not to visit Spain, after an increase in Covid-19 cases this month. However, Spanish foreign minister Arancha González Laya has insisted that Spain is still "a safe country".

Analysis

A second von der Leyen term at EU helm 'not a done deal'

German conservative Ursula von der Leyen is seeking reappointment as European Commission president after the June elections. However, her leadership over the past years has triggered internal frustrations that cast uncertainty on her reelection.

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