This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
In an open letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, International Air Transport Association (IATA) director-general Alexandre de Juniac called on all branches of the European Union to support the idea of a common digital European Covid-19 vaccination certificate that would allow individuals to travel freely within Europe without Covid-19 testing. The proposal, advocated by Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, would result in a “renewed freedom of movement, beginning with those who are vaccinated,” said IATA in a statement released Tuesday.
”Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s initiative should be urgently adopted by the commission and all member states,” said de Juniac. “Vaccination is a fundamental key to safely reopening borders and stimulating economic recovery. A pan-European mutually recognized vaccination certificate would be an important step towards giving governments the confidence to safely open their borders and passengers the confidence to fly without the barrier of quarantine.”
De Juniac has railed consistently about the effects of quarantine requirements on air traffic and called on governments to replace them with testing regimes. During IATA’s most recent of a series of briefings on the effect of the pandemic on the airline industry, he characterized the near-term outlook for his membership as “bleak” due to governments’ failure to heed IATA’s recommendations and coordinate a plan to restore connectivity.
“We are in very dark days of this pandemic,” said de Juniac on Tuesday. “But the tough measures taken combined with accelerating vaccination programs must give us hope that we can safely re-establish the freedom of movement.”
Progress on eliminating or reducing quarantines can be made using testing protocols, reiterated de Juniac on Tuesday. “But what we need now is for governments to start working together much more effectively. Unilateral government actions were able to quickly dismantle global connectivity. Re-building will need coordination.”
The EU Heads of State have scheduled a video conference on Thursday to discuss the response to the pandemic and plans to employ “all available instruments” to limit the spread of the virus. The agenda includes Mitsotakis’s proposal for a common vaccine certification.
Separately, airlines have begun trials of a mobile app designed by IATA that acts as a “digital passport” that would include both testing and vaccination information. The app’s four independent, interactive modules cover registries for regulatory entry requirements and labs/test centers, verified certificate issuance, digital identity, and the ability for passengers to share their test results along their journey via their mobile device.
On Tuesday Etihad Airways said it would offer the app, called Travel Pass, to passengers on certain flights out of Abu Dhabi in the first quarter and extend the offering to other destinations if deemed successful.
Meanwhile, fellow Gulf carrier Emirates said it too would begin trials of Travel Pass, initially with what it calls Phase 1 in Dubai for the validation of Covid-19 PCR tests before departure. Expected to begin in April, the program will allow Emirates customers traveling from Dubai to share their test status directly with the airline even before reaching the airport, which will then auto-populate the details on the check-in system.