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A proposal for a gradual, limited resumption of flights

May 20,2020 - Last updated at May 20,2020

On May 6, 2020, His Majesty King Abdullah chaired a National Policies Council (NPC) meeting attended by HRH Crown Prince Hussein, during which he stressed that Jordan is considered a model in dealing with the COVID 19 crisis. In consequence, His Majesty urged out-of-the-box thinking towards a gradual and limited resumption of flights.

Being a professor of commercial law at the University of Jordan, teaching Transportation Law course for the last 18 years and attorney at law dealing with transportation and its logistics, the above statement of our beloved King urged me to provide the following modest proposal.

After the appearance of the COVID-19 crisis, passengers’ flights on any of the airlines will not be the same as before the emergence of this global pandemic. Thus, in order to restore confidence in aviation, future passengers will not travel before ensuring that the aircraft does not contain the COVID 19 virus. This means that the intuitive procedure which shall be considered is that aircrafts shall be sterilised properly in each and every flight.

The gradual and limited resumption of flights shall begin and apply only on business-need-only passengers. Thus, tourists shall not be allowed to travel to and out of Jordan, at least for a certain short period of time till the global control of the COVID-19 crisis will begin to appear. In fact, people are not yet psychologically ready to travel for tourism. 

Based on the epidemiological situation in each country and the recommendations of Jordan Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission (CARC), Jordanian business-need-only passengers shall be limited to travel to certain countries. However, internal flights between Aqaba and Amman shall be allowed. Article (7) of Jordan Civil Aviation Law defines the tasks and responsibilities of CARC, where it shall “regulate all matters related to civil aviation, including regulation of aviation safety and security, and its economic and environmental regulation”.

Traveling procedures of passengers begins with the online check-in process, where passengers had to enter in their passport details and visas, choose certain spaced seats and pay for non-optional services such as checked baggage. Thus, unchecked baggage service and choosing a random seat service are no longer available. Of course, prepaid masks and gloves shall be available at the airport to make sure that all passengers are wearing a unified quality of gloves and masks. Those are considered as important measures to reduce physical contact with baggage, and airport and airlines employees.

Using a certificate of non-infection with the COVID 19 is useless since it does not guarantee that passengers are not infected after taking such certificate. Therefore, passing through sterilisation tunnel and thermal wipers and speedy and accurate inspection devices of the COVID 19 shall be available at the airport to check passengers on spot. This means that passengers shall at least be at the airport three hours before the flight’s due time.

Legally speaking, it is important to mention that most countries all over the world, including Jordan, are parties to the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air of 1999 (Montreal Convention), which establishes airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers, as well as in cases of delay, damage or loss of baggage and cargo. Of course, our concern in this case is the death or injury of passengers because of the COVID 19. To avoid such claims, passengers at the airport shall sign a waiver paper of any claim against airports and airlines if they are infected with the COVID 19, and that they are traveling on their personal responsibility.

Logically, extra reasonable charges shall be added on passengers to cover the aircrafts’ sterilisation, incoming and outgoing passengers’ on spot inspection, and any other running expenses for such precautionary measures. The Royal Jordanian airlines, therefore, shall work in an efficient way in order to have the continuity of the business. Such efficiency shall include a transformation of work in order to compete with low-cost airlines. In fact, the transformation shall focus on a plan to make the Royal Jordanian airlines the main hub of low-cost airlines since aviation for the time being and for the near future is going to be smaller than before, and Europe’s low-cost airlines are currently at risk since only few carriers have substantial cash reserves.

All of the above procedures shall be coordinated with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Such coordination is extremely important to avoid confusion and to help enhance confidence in travel.

As a result, we are facing a global health situation that raises many questions, and the problems are of an economic and legal dimension and require a wise approach that guarantees a balance and dedicates the primary role of protecting humanity.

Qais Ali Mahafzah is a professor of commercial law/attorney at law. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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