News

Iata chief slams failure to harmonise Covid travel rules

Iata chief Willie Walsh slammed the failure by governments to harmonise Covid border restrictions and listed a series of demands as he opened the association’s annual general meeting in Boston today.

The Iata director general told member airlines: “How governments are managing border restrictions must dramatically improve.

“Covid-19 is present in all parts of the world and there is little evidence to support blanket border restrictions and the economic havoc they create.”


MoreAirline pandemic losses forecast to surpass $200 billion next year

European airports disputes Iata warnings over Covid recovery charges

Iata commits to hit net-zero carbon target by 2050


Walsh argued: “Fortunately, risk-based measures are starting to take hold in markets that had severe restrictions.”

He described Iata’s demands now as “simple”, insisting: “Vaccines should be available to all as quickly as possible. Vaccinated travellers shouldn’t face any barriers [and] testing should enable those without access to vaccines to travel without quarantine.”

Walsh added: “Antigen tests are the key to convenient testing regimes, and governments should pay for testing.”

He also argued for digital health credentials, warning: “There will be chaos in airports if we rely on paper processes.

“Airlines need to manage documentation verification using automated check-ins. If not, airport wait times and congestion will skyrocket as travel volumes increase.”

Walsh hailed the EU Digital Covid Certificate as “an efficient and reliable standard” and recommended governments adopt it as “a standard to follow”.

He warned: “There is a lot of work to do to simplify entry requirements.  The recovery could be high-jacked by complex rules.

“Governments are using at least 24 versions of country risk-assessment lists.

“Only half of the 20 states with alleviations for vaccinated travellers recognise the World Health Organisation [WHO] vaccine list.

“There are at least six definitions of when a vaccine becomes effective and no standard for how long a vaccine is considered good to travel.”

He added: “There are at least 10 ways to define testing windows prior to travel and there is no consensus on the age of children for testing or vaccination exemptions.

“The situation is a mess.”

Walsh told the Iata AGM: “Complete harmonisation is unlikely, but some simple best practices that travellers can comprehend should be achievable.”

He noted the G7 governments “recognised the problem last week and committed to doing something about it” and called for “a pathway to reducing complexity, insisting: “Measures must remain in place only for as long as they’re needed and not a day longer.”

MoreAirline pandemic losses forecast to surpass $200 billion next year

European airports disputes Iata warnings over Covid recovery charges

Iata commits to hit net-zero carbon target by 2050

Share article

View Comments

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.