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Airline chiefs downplay calls for vaccination passports

Airline leaders have downplayed talk of vaccination passports with Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss insisting a relaxation of border restrictions “should not be discriminatory”.

Speaking as UK airline chiefs united to urge the UK government to include aviation in a roadmap for re-opening the economy expected on Monday, Weiss said: “Those who have not had a vaccine should not face a barrier to travel.”

Asked whether he supports calls for vaccination passports, Weiss said: “I don’t think we should call it a vaccination passport but a digital health app because it should also check whether you booked a test.

“If you don’t have a vaccine it should not be a barrier so long as you accept there will be other restrictions. It should not be discriminatory.

“It’s not really a vaccine passport. It’s a digital health app which is being developed by multiple parties for verification of testing and vaccination to minimise border delays.

“Apps are being tested by a number of providers – Iata is behind one of them.”

He added: “We must integrate digital health certification [because] check-in is taking three to four times what it does normally.”

Weiss argued: “We expect to see favourable conditions for re-opening skies by the summer.

“A risk-based framework should be developed eventually to remove restrictions all together. ”

Jet2 chief executive Steve Heapy said: “If vaccination passports are what it takes to get going, then that is what we have to do. [But] it worries me slightly given the record of IT systems.”

He insisted: “Restrictions will have to fall away.”

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “We are not against measures to protect health and safety. We would not want to see restrictions removed if it causes a rise in infections and brings another lockdown.”

Weiss agreed: “We should be very cautious with variations and new strains [of the virus].”

Asked whether airlines would require crew be vaccinated, Weiss said: “An individual’s right to govern their own body is essential.

“We will do everything to promote vaccination, but to say if you don’t have a jab you don’t have a job would be wrong.”

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