GENEVA, 25 November 2021: The International Air Transport
Association called on governments to adopt simple, predictable and practical
measures to safely and efficiently facilitate the ramping-up of international
travel as borders re-open.

Specifically, IATA urged governments to focus on three key areas:

  1. Simplified health protocols;
  2. Digital solutions to process health credentials;
  3. COVID-19 measures proportionate to risklevels 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
.

“As governments are establishing processes to re-open
borders, in line with what they agreed in the Ministerial Declaration of the
ICAO High-Level Conference of COVID-19, the Blueprint will help them with good
practices and practical considerations. Over the next months, we need to move
from individual border openings to the restoration of a global air transport
network that can reconnect communities and facilitate economic recovery,”
said IATA’s deputy director-general Conrad Clifford.

The Blueprint aims to facilitate the efficient ramping-up of
global connectivity. “We must have processes in place to safely and
efficiently manage the ramping-up of international travel as borders re-open.
With over 18 months of pandemic operational experience and traveller feedback,
we know that a laser focus on simplicity, predictability and practicality is
essential. 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.

Simplified health protocols
The aim must be protocols that are simple, consistent, and predictable.
Key recommendations include removing travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine and enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result.

Recommendations are supported by public opinion research of travellers, which revealed that:

  • 80% believe that vaccinated people should be able to travel freely;
  • 81% believe that testing before travel is an acceptable alternative to vaccination;
  • 73% believe that quarantine is not necessary for vaccinated travellers.

Digital solutions to process heath credentials

The management of travel health credentials (vaccination or testing certificates) should be handled digitally and enable 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.

Key recommendations include:

  • A digital health credential to record health status. The European Digital Covid Certificate (EU DCC) is widely accepted and recognized good practice, with 22 non-EU States currently having equivalence agreements with the EU DCC;
  • A digital web portal or application through which passengers can present their travel health credentials directly to the respective governments for verification. Aruba’s web portal and Canada’s ArriveCAN app are good examples from which other countries can learn, and Australia’s Digital Passenger Declaration platform promises to further streamline processes. IATA Travel Pass can integrate with government solutions to assist with data collection and verification. IATA is working with several governments, including Australia, to ensure a joined-up process;
  • A web platform should provide clear explanations of entry requirements tailored to the individual passenger’s residence status, health status, travel history and any other required variable. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health Travelcheck portal is a good practice example for its ease of use, simplicity and clarity.

Recommendations are supported by public opinion research of travellers, which revealed that:

  • 88% support standardized vaccination and testing certificates;
  • 87% will share personal health data via an app if it saves processing time;
  • 73% found understanding the rules and paperwork applicable to their travel to be a real challenge; (those who travelled since June 2020).

COVID-19 measures proportionate to risk levels with a continuous review process.

Industry and governments have amassed crucial and vast experience with COVID-19. This will continue as COVID-19 becomes endemic. COVID-19 measures must reflect this growing knowledge, changing risk levels and societal tolerance. While day-to-day modifications to measures would introduce unpredictability that would be counter-productive, regular reviews and adjustments are needed.

Key recommendations include:

  • Publish the risk assessments that are used to make decisions relating to international travel to enhance predictability for both consumers and the industry;
  • Review existing processes and apply “sunset” clauses to public health measures to ensure that they are only in place for as long as needed;
  • Develop a roadmap for restoring aviation connectivity in the post-pandemic phase.

Recommendations are supported by public opinion research of travellers, which revealed that:

  • 87% believe that governments must find the right balance in managing COVID-19 and enabling an economic recovery;
  • 86% believe that borders should be progressively re-opened as vaccination coverage and testing capacity grow;
  • 85% believe that mask-wearing on board is critical in the pandemic, but 62% believe that the requirement should be removed as soon as possible.

Moving Forward

“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. We know that travellers feel confident with the
implementation of the COVID-19 safety measures. But they have clearly told us
that the current travel experience needs to improve with better information,
simpler processing and digital solutions. The Ministerial Declaration of the ICAO HLCC aligns with those of the G20 and the G7 in confirming that governments want to restore
the social and economic benefits of global mobility. For that, industry and
government must work together with a common vision of processes that are
convenient for travellers, effective for governments and practical for the
industry,” said Clifford.