Interpretation of the Notice on Diverting International Flights Bound for Beijing to Designated First Points of Entry into China
On March 19 and 22, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Health Commission, General Administration of Customs and National Immigration Administration (NIA) jointly published the Notice on Diverting International Flights Bound for Beijing to Designated First Points of Entry into China (hereinafter referred to as "the Notice"), deciding to adjust designated first points of entry into China for international passenger flights bound for Beijing.
What is the purpose of the Notice under the current circumstances? How the first points of entry are designed? What measures will be taken to ensure the safe operation of the flights after the adjustment? With these questions concerned by the general public in mind, we had an interview with an official from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) who gave detailed interpretation about the background, policy basis and implementation principles of the Notice as well as CAAC's corresponding working methods.
The Notice, after its announcement, has drawn wide attention from the general public. Could you tell me why the Notice was published in the first place? In what ways will the Notice contribute to the prevention and control of COVID-19?
At present, the prevention and control of COVID-19 within China continue to show good results and the momentum of the spread has been subdued. On the other hand, the aggravating situation outside China has brought us new challenges. There is a large population of overseas Chinese travelers, and the number of returnees, with the spread of the coronavirus abroad, is expected to surge. It is of utmost significance to prevent imported cases at this stage, making the battle against overseas risks a key for the overall success in the epidemic prevention and control.
As a center for international exchange, Beijing has become the main battleground in the prevention and control of imported cases. Air travel constitutes one of the major modes of transportation by international travelers. As an important international aviation hub, Beijing Capital International Airport sees 205 international passenger flights every week flying from and to 33 countries, including the U.S., South Korea, France, Germany, and Spain, putting it at the frontline of the battle against imported cases amid unprecedented risks of re-outbreak.
In order to win the key battle, the five authorities, upon approval of the State Council, jointly published the Notice to adjust designated first points of entry into China for international passenger flights bound for Beijing. This adjustment is conducive to the prevention of imported cases into Beijing, provides safety and health guarantee for travelers on Beijing-destined international flights, and improves the efficiency of customs clearance for travelers. It provides more convenience to travelers while toughening up the prevention work.
Airports in Tianjin, Hohhot and Taiyuan are among the list of airports as first points of entry for redirected international flights. Why they were chosen for such an arrangement?
First, airports as first points of entry should be international ones capable of handling the landing and take-off of flights of foreign airlines as well as customs clearance. Second, the guarantee measures at the airports should meet the requirements of safety operation, able to handle Category E aircrafts with a good record of safety operation. Guarantee facilities and equipment at these airports and the staff also should meet the relevant requirements. Third, there should be branches, subsidiaries or operation offices of major Chinese airlines at the airports so as to ensure adequate guarantee resources for the stopover flights after the adjustments.
Selected airports in Tianjin, Hohhot and Taiyuan all meet the above-mentioned requirements. In the selection of airports, it is principal that airlines may choose the nearest first points of entry en route for maximal operation convenience. In the meantime, the Notice specifies that arrangements and relevant measures for such international flights will be subject to adjustments based on the development of the epidemic.
Since multiple aspects and departments are involved in the adjustments, what measures will be taken by CAAC to ensure safe operation of the flights?
To ensure the safe operation of adjusted flights, CAAC requires that all departments implement measures to avoid mistakes from haste, slackness from idleness and errors from rashness, and be highly alerted and organized with a strong leadership, responsibility system and all-encompassing measures. The airlines are required to update flight data in a timely manner and select experienced crews for operation. Backup staffs will be arranged in advance given the possible overtime work due to the quarantine. They shall pay attention to the change of the number of passengers for corresponding route adjustments.
The airports should intensify the training of handling new aircraft types and make preparations for ground operation, stopover scheduling and more based on the adjustments of flights. The air traffic control authorities should verify flight plans and do a meticulous job in arrangements and commanding. Relevant administrative and regulatory authorities at the local level should enhance safety regulations on airports and airlines. Relevant departments of CAAC should assess safety risks and publish timely safety alerts and reports.
Meanwhile, departments of CAAC have improved the organizational work for adjusted flights. Airlines and airports at the first points of entry should optimize the ground handling service process for different situations based on whether there are passengers aboard with fever. Staff shall be increased for maintenance and engineering, passenger service, luggage sorting, etc. Adequate guarantee shall be ensured during the stop-over. Special areas and special transfer procedures and routes shall be set up to avoid the contact between passengers with abnormal body temperature and other travelers by drawing from the work experience of the Beijing Capital International Airport in the prevention of imported cases.
Coordination with governments and health authorities at the local level shall be enhanced, while improving data sharing, information communication and checking mechanism of inbound travelers with customs, immigration, and public security departments on site at the airports and implement transfer and isolation in a timely manner to ensure seamless coordination and close-loop management. The air traffic control authorities should prioritize the guarantee of the timely return of affected flights to Beijing. Relevant departments of CAAC should enhance communication and coordination with their foreign counterparts to keep international airlines updated on relevant information.
Will the adjustment cause inconvenience to inbound travelers? What further measures will be taken by CAAC to provide better passenger services under the current circumstances?
The adjustment to prevent imported cases into Beijing does have some impact on passengers. However, CAAC will stick to the idea of providing cordial services and make utmost efforts to minimize the influence.
The administration has developed targeted guidelines for the provision of passenger services and urged the relevant departments to deliver better services, in terms of services including ticket selling, information notification, temperature check while boarding, stop-over service guarantee, return flight to Beijing, and traveler complaints.
In particular, further efforts will be made in the following three aspects. First, keep passengers updated on relevant information. Airlines should inform passengers of the name of arrival airports, flight time, precautions and other information in advance for their understanding and support. Airlines and airports will provide assistance in the application of flight change and postponement, or taking a connecting flight at the stop-over airport, etc. Second, ensure proper management of passengers during the stop-over. Work will be done to optimize passenger service procedures during the stop-over and make expedite arrangements for the next flights to shorten the stop-over period. Third, properly deal with passenger complaints.
Notice: This English version is only for reference. To learn more, please refer to the authoritative Chinese version.