GENEVA — Vaccine roll-outs around the world, coupled with an increase in testing capacity, especially as governments show more interest in rapid antigen tests, is good news, says IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac. “But until governments ease travel restrictions a significant improvement is unlikely.”
De Juniac addressed January’s stats and made clarifications about the IATA Travel Pass during a recent briefing earlier this week.
According to IATA’s latest figures, passenger performance for IATA airlines was down 72% in 2021 compared to 2019, “a deep concern,” said de Juniac, and even worse than the -69% in December 2020.
“We continue to focus on being prepared for when governments are able to ease restrictions,” he said. “Understanding government plans is important because restarting an airline is not like flipping a switch. Airlines need to ready their crew and aircraft. After a year of lockdowns, this requires checks and coordination. On top of that airlines will need time to market the potential services so that the re-start of operations will have some passengers.”
De Juniac added that the IATA Travel Pass is an important part of these preparations, as it will help passengers and airlines manage traveller health credentials.
He also issued the following clarifications about the IATA Travel Pass:
“IATA Travel Pass is not a vaccine passport: “Initially it will hold test data which governments are already requiring. And it can accommodate vaccine data, should governments require it.”
“IATA is not asking for vaccination to be a requirement: “It is governments, not airlines, that will decide what travellers need to enter their country. There are significant populations who cannot or will not be vaccinated. As a practicality, we are preparing for governments to use a combination of testing and vaccination to re-open borders.”
“There needs to be a digital solution to manage health requirements: “Paper can be a back-up. But unless we can get the majority of travellers processed electronically, we will not be able to handle a ramp-up of activity. Traditional check-in with paper documentation can be an option, but it cannot be the main way of operating.”
“Common standards are needed to document both tests and vaccines: “Temporarily, while volumes are low, we can accommodate digital certificates issued by governments that want an early start. But long-term a global standard will give passengers and governments the greatest confidence and deliver the greatest efficiency.”
A growing list of airlines—including Air New Zealand, Copa Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, RwandAir, and Singapore Airlines—have done or are committed to doing trials with IATA Travel Pass. Last month IATA’s Regional Director of Airports and External Relations, Vinoop Goel, indicated that the IATA Travel Pass app should be ready within weeks. “The plan is to go live in March,” said Goel.
In his remarks earlier this week Juniac added: “This is a very timely discussion given the EU Commission’s initiative to develop a common digital pass. We don’t believe that vaccines should be a requirement to fly. But if the EU does implement a vaccine mandate there must be a common standard for this across the EU.”
On March 1 the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, posted a tweet indicating the the EC is moving ahead with plans to propose a Digital Green Pass: “We’ll present this month a legislative proposal for a Digital Green Pass. The aim is to provide: Proof that a person has been vaccinated; Results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet; Info on COVID-19 recovery. It will respect data protection, security and privacy.”