UAE's Etihad foresees 'wellness' visas for post-COVID-19 passengers - CEO

Etihad Group CEO said technology could allow airline customers right-of-passage via electronic health certification

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. The first flight from Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, arrives in Sydney and marks the opening of the airline's new non-stop route between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, at Sydney airport on March 27, 2007 in Australia.

Image used for illustrative purpose. The first flight from Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, arrives in Sydney and marks the opening of the airline's new non-stop route between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, at Sydney airport on March 27, 2007 in Australia.

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Commercial airline passengers may be required to carry electronic wellness certification to board aircraft in the post-pandemic world.

This 'wellness visa' was mentioned in a keynote speech by Tony Douglas, Group CEO of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Aviation Group, at the Global Aerospace Summit. Innovation and technology, he said, will play a part in turning today’s problem into the future’s normality.

“It may not be that you have any anxiety about health yourself; it’s everybody else you are sharing an aircraft with,” he said.

Innovation and technology will play a part in turning today’s problem into the ‘future’s normality’, he said.

Douglas was the second high-profile UAE aviation figure to suggest that health-tech monitoring could assist the recovery of the travel industry post-COVID-19.

Speaking at the World Aviation Festival last week, Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, issued a challenge to tech companies to create a wearable health monitoring device for passengers that could be monitored at airports to help prevent the spread of the virus onboard aircraft.

Douglas said the global pandemic was one of the biggest storms in aviation in recent history, but urged young people watching the summit, which was held virtually, to hone their leadership skills in order to sail through it.

“Post Lockerbie, post 9/11, post liquid bomb threat, global standards ended up changing and harmonising. Things like whole baggage screening, not only changed, it then harmonised, today we all take it for granted.

“Segregation of arrivals and departures, it’s all adapted and harmonised, and ditto in terms of liquids and hand baggage,” he said.

COVID-19 has had an impact of $5.5 trillion on the global GDP, there is potential risk of over 200 million jobs in aviation globally, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has forecast $370 billion of losses in aviation, said Douglas, adding, that it was an ‘eye watering impact’ and ‘damaging to every single one of us commercially’.

In the first quarter of 2020, Etihad performed 34 per cent better than 2019. But while in the first quarter, the airline travelled 3.4 million guests, in the second quarter, it was 33,000.

However, Douglas urged viewers not to be ‘unnecessarily distracted by COVID, as the sustainability agenda still needed to be addressed.

“COVID-19 will come to an end, sustainability won’t,” he said.

“The callout from all of us here is, let’s not be distracted unnecessarily by the scale of COVID, such that the sustainability agenda suffers in any real way.”

Last month, Etihad began its ecoDemonstrator programme, testing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, in partnership with Boeing and Nasa, with 50 percent sustainable aviation fuel. 

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)

imogen.lillywhite@refinitiv.com

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