Make air travel simple, says IATA

PETALING JAYA: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments to simplify air travel in a bid to revive global mobility.

This includes quarantine-free travel for those fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The association representing some 290 airlines said governments should adopt simple, predictable and practical measures to safely and efficiently facilitate the ramping up of international travel as borders reopen.

IATA deputy director-general Conrad Clifford said over the next months, there is a need to move from individual border openings to the restoration of a global air transport network that can reconnect communities and facilitate economic recovery.

“With over 18 months of pandemic operational experience and traveller feedback, we know that a laser focus on simplicity, predictability and practicality is essential.

“However, that is not the reality today.

“Over 100,000 Covid-19-related measures have been implemented by governments worldwide.

“This complexity is a barrier to global mobility that is exacerbated by the inconsistencies these measures have created among states,” said Clifford in a statement.

As such, IATA has urged a focus on three key areas, namely simplified health protocols, digital solutions to process health credentials and Covid-19 measures proportionate to risk levels with a continuous review process.

The industry’s vision to address the complexity is outlined in the newly released policy paper, “From Restart to Recovery: A Blueprint for Simplifying Travel”.

Key recommendations from IATA include removing all travel barriers including quarantine and testing for those fully vaccinated with a World Health Organisation-approved vaccine and enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result.

IATA said the recommendations were supported by public opinion research of travellers which revealed that 80% believed that vaccinated people should be able to travel freely, 81% who believed that testing before travel is an acceptable alternative to vaccination and 73% who believe that quarantine is not necessary for vaccinated travellers.

IATA added that the management of travel health credentials such as vaccination or testing certificates should be handled digitally, enabling travellers to complete the process in advance so that they can arrive at the airport ready-to-travel.

“This will facilitate automated check-in processes, reducing airport queuing and wait times,” it said, adding that the research had revealed that 88% support standardised vaccination and testing certificates while 87% will share personal health data via an app if it saves processing time.

Meanwhile, 73% found understanding the rules and paperwork applicable to their travel to be a real challenge.

A good example of a digital health credential to record health status is the European Digital Covid Certificate (EU DCC), which is widely accepted and a recognised good practice, with 22 non-EU (European Union) States currently having equivalence agreements with EU DCC, said IATA.

Governments must also undertake regular reviews and adjustments for Covid-19 measures by reviewing existing processes and applying “sunset” clauses to public health measures to ensure that they are only in place for as long as needed, said IATA.

Other key recommendations include governments publishing the risk assessments that were used to make decisions relating to international travel to enhance predictability for both consumers and the industry.

Governments should also develop a roadmap for restoring aviation connectivity in the post-pandemic phase, it said, adding that based on its findings, 87% of travellers believe that governments must find the right balance in managing Covid-19 and enabling economic recovery.

Additionally, 86% believe that borders should be progressively reopened as vaccination coverage and testing capacity grow, said IATA.

“A total of 85% also believe that mask-wearing on board is critical in the pandemic, but 62% believe that the requirement should be removed as soon as possible.

“Travel is important. Pre-pandemic, some 88 million livelihoods were directly connected to aviation.

“And the inability to travel freely by air has impacted the quality of life for billions of people,” added Clifford.

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