“Without an automated solution for Covid-19 checks, we can see the potential for significant airport disruptions on the horizon,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “Already, average passenger processing and waiting times have doubled from what they were pre-crisis during peak time – reaching an unacceptable three hours. And that is with many airports deploying pre-crisis level staffing for a small fraction of pre-crisis volumes. Nobody will tolerate waiting hours at check-in or for border formalities. We must automate the checking of vaccine and test certificates before traffic ramps up. The technical solutions exist. But governments must agree digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them. And they must act fast.”
The impacts will be severe, according to IATA:
- Pre-Covid-19, passengers, on average, spent about 1.5 hours in travel processes for every journey (check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim).
- Current data indicates that airport processing times have ballooned to 3.0 hours during peak time, with travel volumes at only about 30 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels. The greatest increases are at check-in and border control (emigration and immigration) where travel health credentials are being checked mainly as paper documents.
- Modelling suggests that, without process improvements, the time spent in airport processes could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75 per cent pre-Covid-19 traffic levels, and eight hours per trip at 100 per cent pre-Covid-19 traffic levels.
Travellers likely to use counterfeit paper documents
“In the absence of digital vaccination passports, many travellers are likely to be using counterfeit paper documents; the consequences will be long delays at airports,” added Adam Schrader, Director of Operations at travel risk company Riskline. “Governments and travel authorities are now hastily rushing to introduce vaccination passports to meet the demand to open up travel and holidays.
“While digital vaccine passports are in development and testing, the absence of any universal standards means that many people around the world have already been issued with paper documentation for their vaccinations. The unvaccinated who still want to travel will turn to counterfeit documents and fake vaccination passports, which are already available on the dark web. Some violators may not be caught. Until all countries have introduced digital vaccination records, security will be weak and be dependent on hard-pressed border and travel staff checking documents diligently. The queues will be lengthy.”
If Governments require Covid-19 health credentials for travel, integrating them into already automated processes is the solution for a smooth restart. This would need globally recognized, standardized, and interoperable digital certificates for Covid-19 testing and vaccine certificates.