EU airlines warn of chaos amid Covid-19 certificates

Photo: EPA

Groups representing EU largest airports and airlines warned in formal letters to the European Commission that the system of Covid-19 certificates will sparkle chaos in air traveling. The digital certificates are due to take effect from 1 July. However the airports and airlines warn that the extra bureaucracy will result in hours waiting and long queues in the peak of the tourist season.

Airports group ACI and airlines representative bodies A4E, IATA and ERA warned in the open letter to EU national leaders of a "worrying patchwork of approaches" across the continent, Reuters reported. "As passenger traffic increases in the coming weeks, the risk of chaos at European Airports is real," the letter read.

The digital certificates are designed to show, via QR codes, whether passengers are fully vaccinated, have immunity due to recent recovery from Covid-19 or have had a negative test. They are designed to be used for travel throughout the EU from 1 July, but would require extra checks and the right equipment to read the codes. The letter said the only way to avoid huge queues and delays during the peak summer season was to implement a system whereby both the vaccination certificate and passenger locator forms are processed remotely before the passenger arrives at the airport. Checks must only take place in the country of departure and not on arrival and national governments should manage the health data and provide equipment to check the QR codes. "A high level of fragmentation and differences in the implementation of the DCC as well as continued duplication of document checks in several states is alarming," the letter said. ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec, one of the signatories, said his airport members were "getting very concerned". "Coping with this increase is going to be an unprecedented challenge"," he said. The amount of verification still being done manually at airports was making him "very, very nervous," he added.

The amount of time navigating airports during a journey has doubled to 3 hours from 1-1/2 hours before the pandemic, said IATA's European Vice President Rafael Schvartzman, another signatory. If no changes were made and capacity returned to pre-Covid-19 levels, that could theoretically increase to an unacceptable five or even eight hours, he said.

The European Commission issued guidance for Member States that echoed some of the concerns, noting that 10 different combinations of checks were being planned by various countries. This risks leading to "unnecessary duplication of measures and as a consequence to queues and crowding at airports."

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