People who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 should face fewer restrictions when international travel resumes in the coming months, according to airline association Iata.
Simon McNamara, Iata’s country manager UK and Ireland, also said there should be a “pragmatic approach” by governments this summer to accepting proof that a traveller has been vaccinated.
“Vaccinated people should face less restrictions and should be able to travel freely across borders,” he said.
McNamara, who was speaking at Travel Technology Initiative (TTI)’s online spring conference, said around 100 airlines were currently working or in talks with Iata on its new Travel Pass initiative, which aims to make restarting travel easier.
But he added: “Working with governments is the bit that’s slower at the moment and acceptance at the border will be slower.
“Our ask for government is simple – issue people with a digital vaccine certificate as some evidence they have had it [the vaccination]. Will showing it on the NHS app be accepted in Spain? Probably not.”
McNamara said the Covid crisis had seen the “total failure” of the multilateral approach to border and travel restrictions, with even the 27 countries of the EU “doing their own thing” rather than adopting a common policy across the bloc.
He added that estimates of the airline sector’s recovery during 2021 had been downgraded since December as countries have implemented ever tighter travel restrictions to deal with a fresh wave of infections.
At the end of 2020, Iata was estimating that air passenger traffic would reach 51% of 2019 levels during 2021, but this has now been reduced to between 33% and 38% depending on how quickly countries lift restrictions later this year.
McNamara said the airline industry was “asking for a plan” from governments around the world, and he praised the UK for setting out some “hard dates” to allow the sector to plan for a resumption in travel.
But he added the current waiting times at UK airports with queues of up to seven hours for passengers were “unsustainable”.
“That cannot continue if the industry is to return at scale,” he said.
McNamara predicted that domestic air travel would pick up first, followed by short-haul demand with long-haul set to the “last category” to recover.