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Well being and security certificates could possibly be the brand new "visas" that permit air journey, says the CEO of Etihad

SINGAPORE – According to Etihad Airways CEO, airlines will have to meet a "harmonized" standard of health measures when air traffic returns after the global pandemic.

"I can see that wellness certification will be a necessary feature in getting the world back to flying," Tony Douglas told CNBC's Hadley Gamble last week at the Global Aerospace Summit.

For Etihad, a United Arab Emirates airline, efforts to ensure "wellbeing" include sterilization of cabins, mandatory coronavirus testing for passengers and tracking of wristbands that must be worn during the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

An Etihad Airways Airbus A321 aircraft that has supplied medical supplies for the fight against Covid-19 from the United Arab Emirates at Grozny International Airport in Russia.

Yelena Afonina | TASS | Getty Images

"Internationally oriented" processes

With no end in sight to the pandemic, Etihad's Douglas said airlines need to adapt to keep passengers safe to fly.

"Just like the Lockerbie safety standards after 9/11 and the liquid bomb threats that have harmonized global aviation safety standards everywhere, I predict the same will happen with wellness," he said.

Douglas said he did not compare the coronavirus to terrorism, but pointed out the importance of "internationally oriented" processes.

"With these examples of terrorism, all baggage screening has become a global, recognized and harmonized standard over time," he said. "I'm going to go out there and predict that after Covid there will be changes in the way wellness certification comes into play."


The country's second largest airline announced wage cuts and layoffs in May. Douglas said "thousands" had been laid off and it was an "unfortunate reality" for the industry.

Etihad has lost more than $ 5 billion since 2016 and was working on a transformation program for more than two years when the coronavirus outbreak hit. Douglas said he couldn't guarantee there would be no more layoffs given the industry's problems.

Douglas told CNBC that the state-owned company has received "remarkable support" from the Abu Dhabi government.

"The trick for us now is to focus on how to navigate out of the other side," he said. "I am sure Etihad will be one of the winners in all of this."

– CNBC's Natasha Turak contributed to this report.

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