During a high-level discussion yesterday on current prospects for civil aviation, hosted by the Montreal Council for International Relations (CORIM) and with the participation of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aéroports de Montréal, Mr. Philippe Rainville, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu outlined COVID-19’s devastating impacts on the air transport sector globally and the challenges still being dealt with country-to-country,while also expressing her excitement about the future of aviation in terms of recovered passenger demand, today’s incredibly dynamic period of technological innovation, and improved environmental sustainability.
Participants also noted the current status of the cooperative development of an internationally viable COVID-19 vaccination certificates by the World Health Organization (WHO), work which ICAO is making important contributions to in light of its experience and expertise in ePassport travel documents.
“ICAO has developed a Visible Digital Seal (VDS), a key technology based on ePassport specifications that provide a secure and convenient feature that could be added to a non-electronic document, such as a “public health proof”, ” she noted, “one which is both secure and specifically designed to support global interoperability for reading and verification on an international basis”.
The VDS technical specifications were published last week, and by the end of June, it is expected that both national and regional vaccination certificate trials will be making use of them.
Responding to concerns Mr. Rainville raised over the very rigid restrictions on international travel, Dr. Liu emphasized that the rigidity of those measures continues to differ today because individual countries are still experiencing such varying COVID severity levels.
“What countries have therefore adopted through ICAO is a set of recommendations and guidelines to help them align their responses in aviation to the highest possible degree while taking into account the differences in their health situations,” she clarified. “They are also encouraged to take further steps toward establishing more normalized public health travel corridors between countries with similar levels of pandemic response in place.”
The Liu-Rainville one-on-one discussion then turned to the topic of innovation and the role that new technologies would play in air transport’s ‘new normal’ post-pandemic.
Dr. Liu noted that Unmanned Aerial Systems and Urban Air Mobility are key near term priorities in terms of integrating these new aircraft and operations into traditional airspace, and that she was also excited by the number of new innovations which are directly targeting a significant reduction or elimination of aviation emissions.
Innovations in the passenger experience were also discussed, into how health screening would likely become as commonplace as security screening is today, and on how digitization would deliver a more health-focused and contactless travel experience for future passengers.
With the end of Dr. Liu’s second term as ICAO Secretary General approaching at the end of July, the high level discussion concluded with the two participants appreciating their respective contributions to global and local air transport and socio-economic growth, and with Dr. Liu summarizing some of the high points of her tenure as ICAO Secretary General.
Both participants also answered public questions after the event, and subsequently met with media to go over some discussion topics in more detail.