Two airline trade groups are calling on local government officials to exempt flight crews from the COVID-19 testing regimen intended for passengers, saying the daily tests pose "undue" stress and pressure on them.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) jointly called on officials Monday to follow the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council Aviation Recovery Task Force CART guidelines.
Under the guidelines, crew members are not recommended to undergo screening or restrictions applicable to other travelers. Additionally, the guidelines recommend that health-screening methods for crew members should be as “non-invasive as possible.”
Even with this guidance, the IATA and IFALPA say a number of states are employing the same public health measures for crew members as the general public. This includes providing negative COVID-19 test results prior to departure and in some cases, a second negative COVID-19 test is required upon arrival, according to a joint statement from IFALPA and IATA.
The groups also noted that in some cases, only crew members with a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate would be allowed to layover in their respective countries.
IATA’s senior vice president of safety and flight operations, Gilberto Lopez Meyer, argued that these measures "fail to take into account the fact that interactions with the local population are minimized."
To bolster his point, Meyer said that crew who are on layover are "often restricted to the hotel." Meyer further noted that airlines "already comply with the requirements of their home country health protection and monitoring programs to manage crew health, which typically includes measures to reduce the risk of infection."
IFALPA President Jack Netskar, an airline captain, is in agreement, adding that the measures being employed by some states are "putting undue stress and pressure" on crew members.
"The guidance provided has been carefully developed to ensure operations can continue without jeopardizing safety for both crews and passengers,” Netskar said.
Aside from the "physical discomfort" of daily COVID-19 testing, the groups claim there is a significant financial burden as well.
According to officials, one global airline estimated that the cost of complying with such requirements for a single daily flight cost an additional $950,000 per year.
"States should acknowledge that crew present a different risk profile than passengers and that more flexibility and relaxation of testing requirements and/or quarantine could be considered including exemptions,” Meyer added.
Likewise, Airlines for America, the industry trade organization representing the leading U.S. airlines, agrees that "the testing and quarantine requirements put in place by various jurisdictions for passengers" do not need to apply to airline crews.
"Airline flight crews are subject to company requirements that follow specific occupational health and safety guidance issued by the CDC and the FAA that ensure both a low risk of transmission and the continuing function of the air transportation system," Airlines for America told FOX Business.