It has been in force since 1 July EU digital certificate system COVID (DDC) or “covid passports”, but airlines and airports warn of major operational risks due to inconsistent approach by Member States in the application of covid passports across Europe.
In a letter from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to EU heads of state, the aviation industry called on leaders to harmonize standards and protocols for checking DCCs, to avoid unnecessary queues at airports and to ensure a smooth travel experience.
Although the European Commission has worked closely with industry and delivered an appropriate framework in record time to allow for common and fully interoperable DCCs, at least 10 different national approaches and solutions are currently being reviewed across the EU, IATA said. Combined with the lack of full and effective integration of DCC into passenger travel, as well as duplication of document checks (average application processing time, for example, increased by 500% to twelve minutes per passenger) - the current situation threatens better air travel resumption success this summer.
In particular, the DCC check must be done long before the departure and before the arrival of the passengers at the airport (‘outside the airport’), together with the passenger location forms (PLF) and without duplicating the checks, according to IATA.
"With the peak summer tourist season, the EU fortunately now has a range of tools and measures at its disposal to enable and support the relaunch of air connectivity, along with travel and tourism. We need Member States to implement these tools urgently in a coordinated and effective way. We consider this a key prerequisite for travel, in order to avoid long queues of passengers and waiting times which would create new health hazards and inevitably result in operational problems for airports and airlines , ”The four associations said in a joint letter to the heads of state.
To ensure a smooth restart of travel, airlines and airports continue to encourage all Member States to develop a national portal to facilitate DCC verification directly by national authorities and limit the processing of health data by airlines. This network check - when performed outside the airport via the state portal - should result in a standard signal, such as a QR code, provided by the passenger to the airline, to facilitate the issuance of an online boarding pass. They also seek to provide a state-of-the-art DCC verification portal, as well as to integrate and verify the PLF form, ideally using the EU Digital Passenger Finding Form (dPLF), allowing the number of seats to be reported after registration, IATA said. And lastly to ensure DCC verification takes place at airports for paper DCC owners using a single verification application.
European aviation remains one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic
According to the latest EUROCONTROL forecast, aviation is not expected to fully recover before 2024. Passenger traffic through the EU / EEA / Switzerland airport network fell by 77% in early June compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Similarly, the recovery of air connectivity is proceeding at a slow pace, as more than 5.600 airlines were lost last month compared to June 2019. On the other hand, the desire to travel is strong, and 61% of Europeans surveyed want to travel now and the next two months. In addition, travelers support digitization processes, in fact, 89% of them want globally standardized COVID-19 certificates for testing or vaccination, according to the IATA / Rockland Dutton Passenger Survey.