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Airports warn of ‘widespread chaos’ across Europe in August

European airports association ACI Europe has warned of “widespread chaos” at airports this summer due to Covid-19 requirements.

ACI Europe pointed out “rules remain largely unaligned and unstable” across Europe and forecast travellers could spend hours at airports waiting to be processed, echoing a recent warning from airline association Iata.

It noted monthly passenger traffic is poised to triple from 47 million to 125 million in August and will pose “an unprecedented operational challenge” despite passenger numbers remaining well down on 2019.

The association said a combination of space-constrained facilities, a concentration of traffic at peak times and multiple Covid-19 checks would create chaos.

It warned that social distancing and increased passenger processing times would add to the disruption.

ACI Europe reported: “Airlines’ plans point to air traffic being very much concentrated on peak periods this summer – more than in summer 2019 at some airports.”

It noted airport facilities are “designed to accommodate the concentration of large passenger volumes”, but said: “That becomes extremely challenging when capacity is reduced as a result of physical distancing and seamless operational processes are no longer possible due to Covid-19 checks.”

The association further noted: “Passengers are subject to additional checks aimed at verifying Covid-19 test certificates, passenger locator forms and quarantine documentation.

“These checks vary depending on the point of origin and destination, based on rules which remain largely unaligned and unstable across Europe.

“They are carried out multiple times at departure and upon arrival, most of the time manually – considerably slowing passenger processing time.”

To make matters worse, ACI Europe reported: “Checks on Covid-19 tests upon departure are currently duplicated or triplicated at 77% of Europe’s airports.”

Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe director general, said: “Airports are desperate to see facilities come back to life. But the level of uncertainty and complexity in planning for the restart is mind blowing.

“The prospect of travellers enduring widespread chaos at airports this summer is becoming more real. We urgently need governments to step up advance planning and work more closely with airports and airlines.”

ACI Europe urged Europe’s governments to:

  • Adopt and implement the revised EU Council Recommendation for travel within the EU, published by the EC on Monday, and ensure the lifting of travel restrictions for vaccinated, tested and recovered travellers;
  • Be ready to issue common EU digital Covid-19 certificates by July 1 and recognise digital and manual Covid-19 certificates issued by EU neighbouring countries as well as third countries.
  • Ensure Covid-19 checks are not duplicated – integrating departure and arrival processes – and checks take place as early in the passenger process as possible.
  • Deploy adequate state resources to ensure manual checks and border control processes do not delay travellers.

ACI Europe also called on the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) to reconsider physical distancing requirements at airports.

Iata issued an urgent call for governments to agree international standards for digital Covid-19 vaccination and test certification last week, warning of “chaos” at airports without it.

It warned that without the digitisation of checks, the average time spent in airport processing could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75% of pre-Covid traffic levels and eight hours when traffic recovers 100%.

Iata director general Willie Walsh said: “We need a digital solution or we’ll have chaos on departure and chaos on arrival.”

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