Covid-19 tests and vaccine passports should not become permanent features of air travel, says Iata’s new boss Willie Walsh.
Iata director general Willie Walsh, formerly chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said that while the industry understood the current need for restrictions, such as testing and vaccine certification, they should not continue once the pandemic crisis is over.
“While we fully acknowledge and understand the political need for governments to impose these restrictions, we believe it is very important that governments start thinking and planning for the removal of restrictions as the health crisis is overcome,” added Walsh.
“We want to work with governments so that they can better understand what will be required from airlines, because it’s not going to be easy for airlines just to ramp up activity.
“That will have to be done in a structured way because all airlines want to see that done in a co-ordinated and in a safe fashion.”
Walsh said airlines wanted to get back to “a situation whereby the restrictions that we see in place today are removed when they are no longer needed”.
“Measures, such as testing or the potential for showing vaccine certification, should not become a permanent part of the industry,” he argued in a speech on Wednesday (7 April).
“These are measures that may be necessary as temporary arrangements while we go through this crisis, but once we’re through it, we want to see these restrictions permanently removed so that people can get back to travelling as they experienced back in 2019.”
Walsh, who took over from Alexandre de Juniac as Iata’s new director general on 1 April, stressed the importance of the Iata Travel Pass being introduced and accepted “because we need to be able to offer the customer a digitised option to travel”.
He said the pandemic was the “most challenging crisis the industry has ever faced” for airlines’ passenger services, with international traffic slumping by 89% due to the Covid crisis.
“What we do see, is that when constraints are relaxed or removed, there is very strong pent-up demand,” added Walsh.
“That is what happened in Europe last summer and what we saw in Australia in February.
“We are optimistic that as we go through the health crisis associated with the pandemic and these restrictions are relaxed or removed, we will see passenger traffic recover and recover strongly.”