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How the aerospace industry is restoring confidence in the travelling public

Engineer looking at plane engine
Restoring confidence: airports and aircraft need to be safe, clean and hygienic Credit: Getty

Before Covid-19, some airline passengers were concerned about engine failure, or take-off and landing. Now the travelling public have a new worry: how can they minimise their risk of infection.

Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the lives of everyone around the globe, and lockdown restrictions continue to be enforced and eased as governments continue to monitor the infection rates in their countries. With this in mind, it is likely the general public will have lingering concerns about using most forms of public transport for some time to come – particularly air travel.

Air travel risks

The opportunities for close contact with other members of the general public are numerous for a travelling passenger because an airport is naturally a place of high footfall – from queuing to check-in or luggage drop-off, to passport control, security and beyond, including spending hours in lounges, catering and retail outlets. All of these present a range of challenges when it comes to reducing physical contact.

It is not just direct physical contact that passengers are cautious about; there are other points of indirect physical contact to take into account, including using toilet facilities, seating and the use of payment devices in the retail shops. And as passengers move around the airport, there are other surfaces that will be touched passing through, including lift buttons, escalator handrails and security trays.

On board the aeroplane, too, passengers will need reassurance that the aircraft is hygienic. There are certain hygiene hotspots aircraft are susceptible to under normal circumstances, such as toilets, tray tables, seat-back pockets and entertainment screens, without the added risk of Covid-19.

The next normal

To restore confidence in the travelling public, airports and aircraft need to be safe, clean and hygienic, and people need to be assured that they are safe places to be. Therefore, airports and airlines will need to find new ways of working by considering and planning for the following aspects of the “next normal” to instil confidence in passengers.

New normal: airlines must find new ways of working to ease the public's lingering concerns about air travel Credit: Getty

Food hygiene 

This includes handling, transporting, serving and utensils, and applies to airports, airlines, catering outlets and lounges and catering contractors (for on-board catering), and to both passengers and airport/airline staff, especially aircrew.

Airport cleanliness 

All surfaces need to be considered: seats, lifts (and especially the buttons), escalators (especially hand-rails), door handles and any financial transaction, whether by cash or chip-and-PIN device. Airline lounges will also need to adopt the same high standard of cleanliness. 

Aircraft cleanliness

Increased focus on cleaning regimes, taking into account the differences between short-haul and long-haul flights. Short-haul aircraft, which may do up to 6.5 flights a day, may only be cleaned once a day under normal circumstances.

Minimising contact and maximising space/social distancing 

The layout of airport seating, which is robust, fixed seating, will need to be revised to provide gaps. Additionally, proposals for screening passengers on board need to be evaluated and implemented. Aircraft layouts, in-flight management and cleaning will also need to be revised to cope.

Passenger flows 

Airports need to be fast and efficient, with no close queueing, no unnecessary contact with people or equipment. Aircraft boarding methods will need to minimise people contact. Contactless methods will be required wherever practicable.

Lead time reduction 

Passengers should arrive just in time to check in and board, not wait around for two hours.

Flight crew 

A robust cleaning regime after every flight would seem a minimum requirement, not least for crew confidence – as well performing crew temperature- and health-screening checks before each flight. Catering remains critical. Crew time may require double-crewing for long-haul, with crews not disembarking at the destination airport. 

The role of standards in the next normal

While the role of standards for cleaning and hygiene, food and equipment have always been significant for travellers to instil trust in the airports and airlines, they are now crucial as a result of the pandemic. To provide assurance of the effective application of standards, third-party certification is key.

If all food-handling organisations are certified to the relevant standards for food handling and hygiene, the travelling public can have confidence that they can trust that they are not going to be exposed to risks. 

Examples of relevant food standards are: ISO 22000 Food Safety Management Systems; Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP); and BSI’s Catering Scheme. All of these are suitable for airports, airlines and catering organisations including the in-flight catering providers.

For airports and airlines, BSI’s new global Aviation Public Health Certification of Compliance audit scheme is designed to help aerospace organisations prepare for their “next normal” by providing a best-practice approach to mitigating public-health risks and increasing consumer confidence in air travel. The scheme enables airports, ground handlers, commercial airlines and cargo airlines to be independently certified by BSI against internationally recognised guidelines and standards, including the ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART).

With increasingly complex requirements across the aerospace industry worldwide, it’s important that organisations can demonstrate to the travelling public that they have been assessed as compliant with best practice. Organisations need to adapt quickly, adopt new working practices and address new regulations and guidelines while ensuring they are trusted to protect people and provide a healthy and safe environment for the benefit of employees and customers alike. This scheme will help to support them with this challenge, inspiring trust.

For more information, guidance and support materials as you navigate the next phase of recovery following Covid-19, visit BSI’s dedicated aerospace web page.

About BSI

BSI is the business improvement company that enables organisations to turn standards of best practice into habits of excellence.

For over a century BSI has championed what good looks like and driven best practice in organisations around the world. Working with 84,000 clients across 193 countries, it is a truly international business with skills and experience across a number of sectors including aerospace, automotive, built environment, food, and healthcare.

Through its expertise in Standards Development and Knowledge Solutions, Assurance, Regulatory Services and Professional Services, BSI improves business performance to help clients grow sustainably, manage risk and ultimately be more resilient.

To learn more, visit bsigroup.com