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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

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Novel Coronavirus 2019 (nCoV-19)

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)


Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China.


In December 2019, the novel coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan.

The outbreak was first reported on 31 Dec. 2019, and came to wide international attention in January 2020. In February 2020, WHO named the disease caused by the virus “coronavirus disease 2019,” which is abbreviated as COVID-19. On 11 March 2020, WHO declared that COVID-19 could be characterized as a pandemic and said it was the first time that a pandemic has been sparked by a coronavirus.


Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. More detailed information on symptoms can be found on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Impact on Aviation

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) initial assessment of COVID-19’s impact on commercial aviation showed a 13% full-year loss of passenger demand for carriers in the Asia Pacific region. IATA projected this could translate to a $29.3 billion revenue loss for those airlines, with the bulk borne by airlines registered in China.

On 5 March, IATA updated its projections to a global revenue loss for the passenger business to between $63 billion and $113 billion, depending on how broadly COVID-19 spreads.

On 24 March, IATA said it estimates industry passenger revenues could plummet $252 billion or 44 percent below 2019's figure. This scenario is based on severe travel restrictions lasting up to three months followed by a gradual economic recovery later in the year. In late May, IATA said that the airline industry's global debt could increase to $550 billion by the end of 2020, an increase of $120 billion from the start of the year.

Airports Council International (ACI) said in late May that airports will se 4.6 billion fewer passengers in 2020 and a decline in revenue of more than $97 billion.

Guidance Material

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has issued multiple electronic bulletins (EB) and State letters providing aviation-related information on COVID-19 and outlining State roles (see Further Reading). ICAO has urged member States to implement relevant provisions of ICAO Annex 9, Facilitation, which pertains to the facilitation of landside formalities for clearing aircraft, passengers, goods and mail with respect to the requirements of customs, immigration public health and agriculture authorities. ICAO also urged States to become members of the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA); enhance national facilitation (FAL) committees by clarifying roles and responsibilities of public health and civil aviation authorities during outbreaks; implement effective collaboration and coordination strategies with all stakeholders; and provide financial and in-kind assistance to support to the CAPSCA programme.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and IATA all have published guidance for airlines and flight crews on how to handle COVID-19 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a multi-language traveler information card. Links to the guidance material can be found in Further Reading. Links to new and updated guidance is added to the Further Reading list as it becomes available.

EASA also issued safety directives to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus through flights to and from high-risk areas. The definition of "high risk geographical areas" will be based on all available information, taking into account the WHO situation report assessments, guidance issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and regional public health assessments, EASA said.

EUROCONTROL and the European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell (EACCC) have asked EACCC members and State Focal Points to use a proposed harmonised format for COVID-19-related NOTAMs.

Since February 2020, regulators and trade organisations have issued guidance on a range of topics, including business continuity places, transporting cargo in passenger cabins, temporary overflow parking of grounded airline fleets, ground handling, facilitating air cargo operations, personal wellbeing, and resuming operations. In April, the tone of some guidance began shifting to preparing for an eventual recovery of operations (See Further Reading).

The CDC, WHO, IATA, ICAO and the EC all have developed web-based guidance and informational material that is updated frequently. Links can be found below under Web-based Resources.

Safety and Contingency Planning

The FAA issued a revised Order JO 1900,47E, Air Traffic Control Operational Contingency Plans after experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases at air traffic facilities and other offices across the U.S. The Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) issued guidance on ensuring the continuity of air traffic services globally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) issued a "roadmap" of safety considerations for commercial aviation stakeholders involved in continuing operations, reducing/halting operations and resuming operations. The document and accompanying materials are expected to be updated as the crisis continues and best practices emerge.

ICAO issued a State letter on implementing contingency arrangements to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

The links in Further Reading and Web-based Resources below will be updated and expanded as necessary as applicable guidance is issued. The lists are representative of the materials available and are by no means exhaustive.

Related Articles

Further Reading







Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)



  • European Union Aviation Safety Agency/European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol, Operational Guidelines for the management of air passengers and aviation personnel in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Issue no. 1, 21 May 2020.


European Commission



Flight Safety Foundation







U.S. DOT/Homeland Security/HHS

Web-based Resources