Aviation | COVID-19
Preliminary guidelines for aeronautical meteorological service providers (AMSPs) during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
First published: 10 April 2020
Last updated: 5 March 2021
3.1. Adjustments to service requirements
3.2. Adjustments to working practices
5.1. Quality management systems
5.2. Risk management
5.3. Business continuity
5.4. Cost recovery
1. Background and objective of these guidelines
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Since the disease was first identified in late 2019 it has spread around the world.
On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On 11 March 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. More information on COVID-19 is available from WHO here.
At time of initial writing (10 April 2020), according to WHO, more than 180 countries worldwide had collectively reported that more than 1.4 million people have been infected with COVID-19, of which more than 85,000 people have so far died. While all WMO Regions are affected by the pandemic, current epicentres include parts of Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.
UPDATE: As of 5 March 2021, WHO reported (here) that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide was in excess of 114 million across more than 200 countries, areas or territories, of which more than 2.5 million people have so far died.
Governments of many countries have instituted so-called ‘lock downs’ or curfews of their general population as well as other public health protection measures to prevent or otherwise reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Since early March 2020, international civil aviation has witnessed a dramatic decline in commercial air traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some countries and regions operating barely 10% of capacity compared with the same period in 2019. Some airline operators and some airports have suspended operations entirely for several weeks and potentially several months. Data and economic analyses of the impact of COVID-19 on the air transport industry, as well as other industry insights, is available from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) here.
There is a risk that ‘waves’ of COVID-19 outbreaks could prevail beyond the first instance.
The influence of climate and weather conditions such as humidity and temperature on where and when COVID-19 occurs is an area of ongoing research. Read more about the role WMO is playing in this research effort here.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the socio-economic well-being of many nations and many industries, including the provision of meteorological service for international air navigation.
The objective of these preliminary guidelines, therefore, is to assist aeronautical meteorological service providers (AMSP) of WMO Members that are already impacted or that may become impacted by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
These guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive. Indeed, they may be modified or otherwise complemented over time. In addition, these guidelines are non-regulatory in nature, meaning that it continues to be the responsibility of the competent authorities within the WMO Member concerned to decide if, when and how they and their AMSP(s) might respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Permanent Representatives of WMO Members can view the Circular letter from the Secretary-General here, dated 20 April 2020 (English only).
2. International obligations of AMSPs
A majority of WMO Members have, through their NMHS or non-NMHS aeronautical meteorological service providers (AMSPs), responsibility to provide meteorological facilities and services to international civil aviation in accordance with the Standards and Recommended Practices in Technical Regulations (WMO-No. 49), Volume II, Meteorological Service for International Air Navigation.
Note 1. — WMO-No. 49, Volume II corresponds to Annex 3 to the Convention of International Civil Aviation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Note. 2 — WMO-No. 49, Volume II is available in all official languages via the WMO e-Library here.
Together, WMO-No. 49, Volume II and ICAO Annex 3 provide the regulatory frameworks of meteorological service for international air navigation. Meteorological facilities and services are provided on a local, national, regional and global basis across a spectrum of aeronautical meteorological stations, aerodrome meteorological offices (which may or may not be physically located at the aerodrome) and meteorological watch offices as well as regional and global centres comprising world area forecast centres, volcanic ash advisory centres, tropical cyclone advisory centres and space weather advisory centres. Some of these offices and centres are collocated with WMO Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) although a majority are not.
A suite of non-regulatory WMO and ICAO guidance materials are available to assist States/Members and their AMSPs in the implementation of the overarching regulatory requirements.
Note. — A list of relevant WMO and ICAO regulatory and non-regulatory publications is available here.
3. Contingency measures implemented by some AMSPs
The following is intended to provide a non-exhaustive illustration how some AMSPs of WMO Members have implemented contingency measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic within their country and/or within their service. Essentially, these contingency measures are intended to protect the health and wellbeing of staff while at the same time preserving, at the very least, the basic level of meteorological service for international air navigation in accordance with the WMO and ICAO regulatory frameworks.
3.1 Adjustments to service requirements
With a significant reduction in air traffic in some countries and regions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meteorological service requirements at some airports and in some airspaces have been significantly reduced or, in some instances, suspended.
In those instances where domestic and international commercial air traffic operations continue on a 24-hour basis or on a reduced-hours basis, however minimal, it is essential that AMSPs continue to fulfil their international civil aviation obligations as directed by the regulatory authority (or authorities) of the State/Member concerned in consultation with the air navigation service providers (including AMSPs) and aviation users.
3.2 Adjustments to working practices
The virus is mainly spread by humans during close contact and by small droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Humans may also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. There is currently no vaccine or antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Therefore, to prevent or otherwise reduce the spread of COVID-19, some AMSPs have implemented the following adjustments to working practices, often in direct response to government or other authoritative agency advice or instruction. It may also be necessary for AMSPs to plan for and to implement adjustments to working practices due to COVID-19 related impacts such as staff sickness absence or for other domestic reasons. These adjustments to working practices may be short-term (spanning several weeks) or they may be longer-term (spanning several months or potentially longer) depending on the local or national situation and how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.
Repositioning of teams and reallocation of duties/tasks
Some AMSPs have implemented so-called ‘social distancing’ measures within the workplace environment, including observing stations and forecast production offices, to ensure the appropriate and necessary separation of duty personnel. Such social distancing measures include individuals or teams working across well-separated workstations or workspaces, sometimes in different parts of the building or even in different parts of the country where facilities allow.
Note. — Advice on basic protective measures against COVID-19, including social distancing, is available from the World Health Organization (WHO) here.
In addition, where there have been changes in the demand for and supply of meteorological services, especially as they relate to meteorological service for international air navigation, some AMSPs have reallocated tasks given to duty personnel in those instances where an aeronautical meteorological observer (AMO) or an aeronautical meteorological forecaster (AMF) possesses the necessary competence to perform other duties/tasks.
In this connection, where duty personnel may be reallocated to perform AMO and/or AMF duties/tasks, it is essential that the WMO Member and their AMSP(s) ensure that the personnel concerned comply with the WMO regulatory framework as it pertains to the education and training, competency and qualification of aeronautical meteorological personnel. Reference materials include:
- WMO-No. 49, Volume I, General Meteorological Standards and Recommended Practices, Part V,Qualifications and Competencies of personnel involved in the provision of meteorological (weather and climate) and hydrological services,
- WMO-No. 1205, Guide to Competency, and
- WMO-No. 1209, Compendium of WMO Competency Frameworks.
Remote-working, including for forecast production
In connection with the repositioning of teams referenced above, in the interest of ensuring social distancing and maintaining business continuity, some AMSPs have enabled AMF and other personnel to perform their duties/tasks away from their normal duty station, including working remotely from home/their place of residence.
Generally, this is only feasible where technology and other considerations allow, including necessary and appropriate computer hardware, software and display screen equipment at the remote location as well as resilient network connectivity between the duty station and the remote location, especially during the hours of operation.
In addition, appreciating the challenges faced by some duty personnel to perform work-related duties/tasks from home, some AMSPs have undertaken measures to adjust shift-working patterns to keep disruption to a minimum while at the same time maintaining the necessary levels of service provision.
Delegation of service provision, in whole or in part, to an alternate provider
In some instances, in particular where an AMSP may be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through staff sickness absence and/or where facilities and infrastructure are such that the repositioning of teams or the remote-working of duty personnel is extremely challenging or impossible, some AMSPs may, in consultation with their regulatory authority (or authorities), be required to delegate their service provision responsibilities, in whole or in part, to an alternate provider until such time as ‘normal operations’ can resume. The alternate provider could lay within the existing national arrangements or it could lay beyond the national arrangements. Bilateral or multilateral arrangements (or equivalent) may be instituted in any such delegation or ‘buddying’ arrangement.
Regardless of who is designated and regardless of how any delegation to an alternate provider is conducted, the regulatory authority (or authorities) within the WMO Member concerned would remain responsible for ensuring that the meteorological service for international air navigation continues to conform to the international Standards and Recommended Practices in WMO-No. 49, Volume II/ICAO Annex 3.
Other aspects that an AMSP may be required to consider during the pandemic include but are not limited to:
- Access to online training courses or other educational resources to maintain competent and qualified duty personnel,
- Distribution of personal protective equipment (or PPE) for work-related occupational health and safety, and
- Access to counselling services or other health and wellbeing support for staff members.
4. General return-to-work considerations
Transitioning back to work, back to ‘business as usual’ in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic - and as civil aviation recommences operations - requires careful consideration by AMSPs in order to maintain the health and wellbeing of staff, the organization in general and its partners, customers, etc. and to reduce the likelihood and/or impacts of further outbreaks of the disease.
In view of the inhomogeneous nature of AMSPs, it is not possible to propose a single approach here that will fit all situations domestically. Moreover, an AMSP is likely to be required to follow ‘return to work’ measures and mitigations imposed by national administrations that may vary from one country to the next in terms of their scope and implementation.
The following, therefore, are simply intended as non-exhaustive, non-binding illustrations of some of the measures that could be considered. Note, local or national requirements imposed on the AMSP by appropriate authorities may necessarily supersede the considerations here.
- Continue to prioritize social/physical distancing between staff and visitors in the workplace wherever practicable.
- Monitor who is where and how they move around the workplace.
- Phase (or stagger) the re-introduction of staff to the workplace.
- Reconsider the utilization of ‘hot desks’.
- Evaluate and communicate progress on a continuing basis.
5. Relevant resources
The following is intended to provide a non-exhaustive listing of resources relevant to the sustained provision of aeronautical meteorological services to international civil aviation. These may also be applicable to non-aviation and non-meteorological applications. These resources are from WMO and non-WMO sources. These resources cover the following four main areas:
- Quality management system
- Risk management
- Business continuity
- Cost recovery
5.1 Quality management system
The implementation of a properly organized quality management system (QMS) is a foundational component of meteorological service for international air navigation, and a mandatory requirement within WMO-No. 49, Volume II/ICAO Annex 3.
Extensive guidance on the fundamental components and implementation of a QMS is available in:
This publication provides guidance to WMO Members on how to develop and implement a quality management system (QMS). The Guide details the steps required to obtain certification of compliance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard ISO 9001:2015, Quality Management System – Requirements (ISO, 2015c). It also provides the steps for transition from ISO standard ISO 9001:2008 (ISO, 2008) to standard ISO 9001:2015 (ISO, 2015c).
It is especially focused on WMO Member National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs). However, it could be successfully utilized by other service providers including AMSPs to help them meet the WMO and ICAO quality assurance requirements.
This publication is available in all official languages via the WMO e-Library here.
ISO 9000:2015 describes the fundamental concepts and principles of quality management which are universally applicable to: organizations seeking sustained success through the implementation of a quality management system; customers seeking confidence in an organization's ability to consistently provide products and services conforming to their requirements; organizations seeking confidence in their supply chain that their product and service requirements will be met; organizations and interested parties seeking to improve communication through a common understanding of the vocabulary used in quality management; organizations performing conformity assessments against the requirements of ISO 9001; providers of training, assessment or advice in quality management; and developers of related standards.
ISO 9000:2015 specifies the terms and definitions that apply to all quality management and quality management system standards developed by ISO/TC 176.
More information available here.
ISO 9001:2015 specifies requirements for a quality management system when an organization: needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements; and aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
All the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 are generic and are intended to be applicable to any organization, regardless of its type or size, or the products and services it provides.
More information available here.
ISO 9004:2018 gives guidelines for enhancing an organization's ability to achieve sustained success. This guidance is consistent with the quality management principles given in ISO 9000:2015.
ISO 9004:2018 provides a self-assessment tool to review the extent to which the organization has adopted the concepts in this document.
ISO 9004:2018 is applicable to any organization, regardless of its size, type and activity.
More information available here.
Note. — The ISO publications referenced here are only available for purchase from ISO at the URLs provided.
5.2 Risk management
The core activity of identifying and managing potential risks to the organization is a fundamental component of ISO 9001:2015 referenced above.
Thus, as part of good QMS practice, AMSPs that are QMS-compliant must be able to demonstrate that they have identified, considered and taken action (as appropriate) to mitigate any risks and capitalized (as appropriate) on any opportunities that may affect their organization. The approach to risk must be proportionate to the consequences, should the risk be realized.
A practical approach to risk management for WMO Members and their service providers (including AMSPs) is provided in the appendices to WMO-No. 1100 referenced above, especially Appendix 9, and includes looking at risks, for example, from operational, financial and legal perspectives.
Additional sources of guidance in respect of risk management are available in:
This framework provides procedures and arrangements for the implementation and continuous improvement of risk management in the Organization to ensure that risk management is carried out in a consistent manner based on the principles defined in WMO’s Risk Management Policy and following best practice and procedures.
WMO-No. 1111 is available in all official languages via the WMO e-Library here.
These guidelines pertain to managing risk faced by organizations. The application of these guidelines can be customized to any organization and its context.
The guidelines provide a common approach to managing any type of risk and is not industry or sector specific.
ISO 31000:2018 can be used throughout the life of the organization and can be applied to any activity, including decision-making at all levels.
More information available here.
Note. — The ISO publication referenced here is only available for purchase from ISO at the URL provided.
In May 2020, ICAO published Doc 10144, ICAO Handbook for CAAs (Civil Aviation Authorities) on the Management of Aviation Safety Risks related to COVID-19, available here. This high-level guidance is intended to support CAAs with the management of aviation safety risks, which fall under their responsibility, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Doc 10144 was developed by ICAO with the assistance of its Safety Management Panel (SMP) and any comments on the Handbook should be sent direct to ICAO: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meteorological services are referenced in Doc 10144 in the context of the operational status of ANS provision and limitations - Chapter 4, Identification, collection and analysis of relevant and available data and information, refers.
5.3 Business continuity
Business continuity (also termed ‘business continuity management’ or BCM) enables an organization to undertake advanced planning and preparation in order to maintain business functions during an interruption to normal operations and to quickly resume business functions after an interruption to normal operations has occurred.
Business continuity/BCM has a very close association with quality management and risk management referenced above.
Sources of guidance on business continuity management are available in:
This document specifies requirements to implement, maintain and improve a management system to protect against, reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of, prepare for, respond to and recover from disruptions when they arise. The requirements specified in the document are generic and intended to be applicable to all organizations, or parts thereof, regardless of type, size and nature of the organization. The extent of application of these requirements depends on the organization's operating environment and complexity.
This document is applicable to all types and sizes of organizations that: implement, maintain and improve a business continuity management system (BCMS); seek to ensure conformity with stated business continuity policy; need to be able to continue to deliver products and services at an acceptable predefined capacity during a disruption; and seek to enhance their resilience through the effective application of the BCMS.
This document can be used to assess an organization's ability to meet its own business continuity needs and obligations.
More information available here.
Note. — The ISO publication referenced here is only available for purchase from ISO at the URL provided.
This guide is intended to contribute to increasing an enterprise’s resilience, risk mitigation and enhanced preparedness for crisis and business recovery. It covers different types of major-scale natural hazards, i.e. geophysical, hydrological, meteorological, climate and biological events including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, tropical storms, over-floods, flash flows, mud flows, droughts, desertification and landslides.
This guide aims to inform and guide decision makers and technical service providers on how to manage business continuity vis-à-vis the multiple hazards that may threaten the production and delivery of goods and services.
5.4 Cost recovery
Cost recovery for the provision of meteorological service for international air navigation is of profound importance to many WMO Members, across the spectrum of well-developed and less well-developed countries.
Through the Convention on International Civil Aviation (ICAO Doc 7300), States/Members are entitled to recover costs for the provision of meteorological service for international civil aviation in a fair and transparent manner. The determination of whether costs for aeronautical meteorological services are recovered from international civil aviation is at the discretion of the State/Member concerned.
Extensive guidance on cost recovery is available in:
This guide explains in an informal and practical manner the way in which NMHS and non-NMHS service providers may recover costs for providing aeronautical meteorological services to aviation.
ICAO Doc 9082, ICAO's Policies on Charges for Airport and Air Navigation Services
This publication is intended to assist States/Members incorporate the four key charging principles of non-discrimination, cost- relatedness, transparency and consultation with users into their national legislation, regulation or policies, as well as into their future air services agreements, in order to ensure compliance by airport operators and air navigation services providers, including aeronautical meteorological service providers.
ICAO Doc 9161, Manual on Air Navigation Services Economics
This manual provides practical guidance to States/Members, air navigation services providers (including aeronautical meteorological service providers) and designated charging and regulatory authorities to assist in the efficient management of air navigation services and in implementing ICAO’s Policies on Charges for Airports and Air Navigation Services (Doc 9082).
6. Industry Insights
The following provides access to a series of insightful COVID-19 meteorology, aviation and other relevant industry articles, portals and interviews in the public domain.
where WMO is the World Meteorological Organization, ICAO is the International Civil Aviation Organization, IATA is the International Air Transport Association, Eurocontrol is the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, IFRC is the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies and UNDRR is the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
7. United Nations General FAQs
The United Nations has developed a series of responses to general Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help the international community respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These general FAQs are available here.
8. Feedback and requests for additional assistance
It would be advantageous for WMO to receive feedback from AMSPs of WMO Members on the specific challenges they may be encountering and the mitigations they may be implementing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, for those WMO Members who may not yet be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be advantageous for WMO to receive feedback on how your AMSP(s) are making preparations to maintain services in the event that the pandemic arrives and/or escalates within your country.
The email@example.com email address can also be used by AMSPs seeking additional assistance or advice from WMO.
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