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News Article

ICAO Calls for “Key Worker” Designation for Air Personnel

By Alicia Arizpe | Wed, 05/27/2020 - 13:14

Global restrictions on travel aimed to slowdown the spread of COVID-19 have led to a significant drop in cargo operations, a troubling sight for an interconnected world that depends on cargo for foodstuffs, medical equipment and for the operation of many manufacturing industries. To address this matter, the global industry and worker organizations have presented a joint statement requesting governments to designate as “key workers” air and sea trade professionals.

Air transport has become an essential part of trade, with airfreight representing 35 percent of the value of all transported goods, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). However, global cargo transportation has fallen significantly in part due to lower capacity as most passenger flights have been grounded, while about half of air cargo is transported in the bellies of commercial flights. This has been problematic for the transportation of necessary medical supplies to fight the pandemic. “We are still seeing examples of cargo flights filled with life-saving medical supplies and equipment grounded due to cumbersome and bureaucratic processes to secure slots and operating permits,” says Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA.

In Mexico, air cargo has also suffered a heavy hit. Mexico’s largest hub Mexico City International Airport (AICM) reported 10.8 percent less cargo traffic during 1Q20. Other airports in the country faced a similar situation, with Queretaro Intercontinental Airport (AIQ) showing the sharpest drop of them all with 25.8 percent less cargo operations during said quarter. Cargo transportation has not just been hurt by the drop in passenger flights but also by the manufacturing slowdown caused by governmental policies that stopped operations of non-essential activities to limit the spread of COVID-19.

To ensure the efficient transportation of necessary goods in these troubling times, ICAO joined the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in issuing a statement calling for governments to designate all air and sea freight operators as “key workers.” For the aviation industry, this would include pilots, air traffic controllers and licensed maintenance technicians, which in 2019 amounted to 887,000 professionals, according to ICAO. “We are seeking the support of governments to facilitate crew changes, operations essential to maintain the global cargo supply chains and operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights,” said the statement.


This latest statement is just one of the efforts the organization is making to streamline cargo operations. Just last week, ICAO had called for the implementation of “Public Health Corridors” to allow airports to keep supply chains open while implementing safety measures that would prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer