Passengers face huge delays when international travel resumes claims IATA

May 27, 2021
IATA boss Willie Walsh. Photo: IATA

Passengers face massive eight-hour delays in processing when international borders fully reopen warns IATA if governments do not agree on a global digital standard for COVID-19 vaccination and testing results.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Willie Walsh, says Governments must also be ready with processes to digitally manage the vaccine or test certificates—ensuring that a safe restart is efficient.”

Technical solutions exist. But governments must agree on digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them. And they must act fast,” said Mr Walsh.

IATA says that unless digital processes to manage travel health credentials (COVID-19 testing and vaccine certificates) and other COVID-19 measures are adopted the impacts will be severe.

Pre-COVID-19, passengers, on average, spent about 1.5 hours in travel processes for every journey with check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim.

However, IATA warns that current data indicates that airport processing times have ballooned to 3 hours during peak time with travel volumes at only about 30 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

It says that the greatest increases are at check-in and border control (emigration and immigration) where travel health credentials are being checked mainly as paper documents.

IATA warns that modeling suggests without improvements, the time spent in airport processes could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75 percent of pre-COVID-19 traffic levels, and 8 hours per trip at 100 percent pre-COVID-19 traffic levels.

People want to fly says IATA and Tourism Economics with global passenger numbers expected to recover to 52 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels of 2019 and that number will rise to 88 percent in 2022 and 105 percent in 2023.

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Mr. Walsh says he is “always optimistic about aviation but we are in the deepest and gravest crisis in our history.

“But the rapidly growing vaccinated population and advancements in testing will return the freedom to fly in the months ahead. And when that happens, people are going to want to travel.

“The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, eliminate quarantine measures and digitally manage vaccination/testing certificates.

“At the same time, we must assure the world that aviation’s long-term growth prospects are supported with an unwavering commitment to sustainability.

“Both challenges require governments and industry to work in partnership. Aviation is ready. But I don’t see governments moving fast enough,” Mr. Walsh said.

IATA said that any possibility for borders to re-open is met with an instant surge in bookings with the most recent example a 100-percentage point spike in bookings from the UK to Portugal when the UK’s “Green List” was announced in early May.

It says the global economy is strong and can fuel growth in travel and in February the industrial production levels stood at 2 percent above February 2019 levels.

Vaccination rates in developed countries (with the notable exception of Japan) should exceed 50 percent of the population by the third quarter of 2021.

“This should be a clarion call to governments to get ready.”