IATA warns of “potential airport chaos” unless governments digitalise travel health credentials
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed that airport processing times have doubled to three hours during peak times as a result of new health checks amid the pandemic, with the greatest increases at check-in and border control due to processing paper documentation. This is in spite of travel volumes being at just 30% of pre-pandemic levels.
Studies by IATA suggest that the time spent in airports could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75% of pre-Covid-19 traffic levels, increasing to eight hours per trip when traffic recovers 100%
The association stated that paper documentation forces travellers to return to manual check-in and border control, which is slower than digital self-service processes.
The aviation body has called on governments to agree on “globally recognised, standardised and interoperable digital certificates” for Covid-19 testing and vaccination. The digitalisation of such certificates would enable advance “ready to fly” checks by governments, and reduce queuing, crowding and waiting times in airports, among other advantages.
IATA director general Willie Walsh commented: “Without an automated solution for Covid-19 checks, we can see the potential for significant airport disruptions on the horizon. Already, average passenger processing and waiting times have doubled from what they were pre-crisis during peak time, reaching an unacceptable three hours. 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.”
The technical solutions exist. But governments must agree to digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them. And they must act fast
– IATA director general Willie Walsh
More than 20 airlines have signed up for trials of the IATA Travel Pass, a digital health verification app that enables passengers to receive Covid-19 test results and verify they’re eligible to undertake their journey with an ‘OK to Travel’ status.