Adopt simple, practicable measures to facilitate travel, IATA tells govts

As borders reopen after several months of the Covid-19 hiatus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments to adopt simple, predictable, and practical measures to safely and efficiently facilitate the ramping-up of international travel.

Specifically, IATA urged governments to focus on three key areas such as simplified health protocols, digital solutions to process health credentials, and COVID-19 measures proportionate to risk levels with a continuous review process

IATA was worried about the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions impacted air travel.

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.

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.

IATA Deputy DG, Conrad Clifford

IATA’s Deputy Director-General Conrad Clifford said 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 would help them with good practices and practical considerations.

He added that over the next months, they need to move from individual border openings to the restoration of a global air transport network that can reconnect communities and facilitate economic recovery.

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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 traveler 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.

Key recommendations for simplified health protocols include removal of all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travelers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result.

According to IATA, these recommendations are supported by public opinion research of travelers 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 while 73% believe that quarantine is not necessary for vaccinated travelers.

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For digital solutions to process heath credentials, Clifford stated that the management of travel health credentials (vaccination or testing certificates) should be handled digitally and enable travelers to complete the process in advance so that they can arrive at the airport ready to travel.

This he reiterated would facilitate automated check-in processes, reducing airport queuing and wait times.

The European Digital Covid Certificate (EU DCC) to him is widely accepted and recognized good practice, with 22 non-EU States currently having equivalence agreements with the EU DCC.

He further stated that 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 he noted can integrate with government solutions to assist with data collection and verification, stressing that  IATA is working with several governments, including Australia to ensure a joined-up process,

He urged governments to publish the risk assessments that are used to make decisions relating to international travel to enhance predictability for both consumers and industry.

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Aside from that, he called for the review of existing processes and applying “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.

These recommendations, he stated are supported by public opinion research of travelers which revealed that 87% believe that governments must find the right balance in managing COVID-19 and enabling an economic recovery

 

Eighty-six percent believe that borders should be progressively re-opened as vaccination coverage and testing capacity grow while  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.

“For that, industry and government must work together with a common vision of processes that are convenient for travelers, effective for governments, and practical for the industry,” said Clifford.

Wole Shadare