The UN aviation agency on Wednesday warned of possible pilot fatigue and lapsed licenses as airlines get ready to fly again once travel restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus are lifted.
The International Civil Aviation Organization guidance on risks arising from the pandemic is contained in a new handbook for air travel authorities.
The outbreak forced the grounding of planes around the world as borders and airports were closed, and the travel sector has struggled to address hoe to maintain social distancing in cramped airplanes.
As “travel restrictions are lifted, there will be challenges for the industry to ramp up operations and restart,” the handbook says.
Notably, widespread closures including of flight simulators and clinics have resulted in “significant” setbacks for training crews and air traffic controllers, and have made many medical certificates, licenses and other approvals unavailable.
The ICAO said civil aviation authorities should review requests for exemptions to the regulations on a “case-by-case basis,” and include “a safety risk assessment and proposals for additional risk mitigation.”
“Sector-wide exemptions could also be issued,” it said.
It noted that destinations where outbreaks persist may not have suitable accommodation for crews to rest between flights.
“As a consequence, there could be pressure on duty time limitations and fatigue.”
The ICAO last week projected 1.5 billion fewer passengers likely taking to the skies this year, resulting in a US$273 billion loss for the airline industry.
Many airlines have sought government bailouts, saying they will not survive without state assistance.