WASHINGTON – Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), the trade association representing commercial service airports in the United States and Canada, today welcomed efforts by Pfizer to expand distribution of its vaccine to international partners around the world. ACI-NA also renewed its call for the industry and government partners to increase coordination and cooperation in hopes of resuming the flow of people and commerce once it is safe to do so.
“Vaccine distribution will be an important component in rebuilding confidence in air travel following the devastating impact from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “The United States has been a proven leader in expediting vaccine distribution for its citizens, and we welcome efforts for other countries to begin doing the same. Reopening international borders is not as easy as flipping on a light switch. We must continue working together to help ensure the economic health of air travel once the pandemic subsides.”
The significant and sustained drop in passengers – still some 90 percent in Canada – has decimated airport finances. ACI-NA estimates the pandemic will cost U.S. airports more than $40 billion and Canadian airports more than CAD $5.5 billion in lost revenues by the end of 2021— a number that will only grow if the pandemic and travel restrictions drag on past this year.
“For more than a year, governments around the world began implementing travel restrictions and lockdowns to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Burke said. “We have long commended the U.S. and Canadian governments for their leadership in making the difficult but necessary decision to prioritize the protection of the health and safety of citizens of both countries. Now, it is time to begin thinking about how we will safely and securely re-open the U.S. and Canadian border.”
ACI-NA continues to be at the forefront of efforts to safely restore international air travel. ACI-NA today also joined a growing coalition of aviation, travel, and tourism industry organizations in sending a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for the safe reopening of one of the world’s most important aviation markets.
“As the collective leaders of the U.S. and U.K. aviation, travel and tourism industry, we are writing to underscore the importance of both governments reopening one of the world’s most important aviation markets as soon as safely possible,” the coalition wrote. “Given the deep economic, social and cultural ties between our two nations, we believe your meeting ahead of the G7 in early June would be an ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the U.S.-U.K. air travel market for both U.S. and U.K. citizens. We stand ready to support the work of governments in the interim to secure a positive outcome.”
For decades, airports, airlines, and governments have worked together to steadily improve the cross-border flow of travelers and goods while preserving the safety, security and health of everyone in the air travel bubble. Ensuring the health, safety and security of the traveling public and airport workers is a priority shared by airports on both sides of the border. Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. and Canadian airports have taken proactive steps to collaborate with each other, along with government, airline and other industry stakeholders, on the best approaches to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
North American airports responded quickly to COVID-19 by establishing enhanced health and sanitation protocols that include much more frequent cleaning, with an intense focus on “touch points” in public areas and restrooms, more and upgraded cleaning supplies, extra shifts and staffing, additional hand sanitizers in airport public areas for passengers and employees, and additional education and training for airport employees and contractors. Many of these practices will remain in place for the foreseeable future.