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Iata warns of ‘8-hour chaos’ at airports without digitized health checks

Issac John /Dubai
issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com Filed on June 1, 2021
Iata has developed a Travel Pass, enabling passengers to receive Covid-19 test results and verify they are eligible to undertake their journey through an ‘OK to Travel’ status. — File photo

(EVERT ELZINGA)

Without the digitisation of checks, the average time spent in airport processing could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75 per cent of pre-Covid traffic levels and eight hours when traffic recovers 100 per cent.


The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has warned that airport processing times could reach eight hours per trip as traffic recovers, unless governments move quickly to adopt digitized solutions for Covid-19 checks.

In an urgent call to governments across the globe, the global association of airlines warned of “chaos” at airports without authorities agreeing on international standards for digital vaccination and test certification.

Before the onset of Covid-19, passengers spent an average of one and a half hours in the travel process (check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim) for each journey.

Without the digitisation of checks, the average time spent in airport processing could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75 per cent of pre-Covid traffic levels and eight hours when traffic recovers 100 per cent.

“Clearly, that can’t happen because airports won’t function. We need a digital solution to take volumes of activity away from airports or we’ll have chaos on departure and chaos on arrival,” said Iata director general Willie Walsh.

Walsh warned of “significant airport disruption on the horizon,” and said already, average passenger processing and waiting times have doubled during peak time, and that is with many airports deploying pre-crisis level staffing for a small fraction of pre-crisis volumes.

“Nobody will tolerate waiting hours at check-in or for border formalities. We must automate the checking of vaccine and test certificates before traffic ramps-up,” Walsh said.

“The technical solutions exist. Governments must agree to digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them, and they must act fast. We can’t go back to a paper system,” he said.

Walsh said an ideal first step would be G7 agreement, with industry input, on a common set of Covid-19 travel requirements. The next step would be implementing and mutually recognizing those requirements.

The G7 has a critical role to play. Walsh suggested an agreement on digital certification by the G7 nations – the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Japan – “would cover almost one-third of people travelling.”

“If the G7 took these leadership measures, the freedom to travel could be seamlessly restored for about a third of all journeys. Other countries could build on that leadership for a safe and efficient global restart of connectivity,” the Iata chief said.

Iata has developed a Travel Pass, enabling passengers to receive Covid-19 test results and verify they are eligible to undertake their journey through an ‘OK to Travel’ status.

Around 20 airlines are conducting trials with the pass.

issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

author

Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.





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