Passenger Locator Forms expected to remain indefinitely

The passenger locator form (PLF) required for international travel will remain indefinitely and form part of a traveller’s digital ID.

But pre-departure tests for those vaccinated should be progressively removed by destinations, according to Dale Keller, chief executive of the UK Board of Airline Representatives.

Keller has worked alongside other aviation bodies on implementing government controls throughout the pandemic.

Speaking at the Latin American Travel Association Expo, Keller forecast “huge development of the PLF”, saying: “The PLF has been really problematic. But fully-vaccinated UK passengers can now upload their vaccination certificate and their status is verified, which means the carrier doesn’t have to do a manual check.

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“That technology is certain to be extended to the EU Digital Covid Certificate [and] will really start to get the borders moving because it automates the process and recognises the PLF at the e-gate.

“Ultimately, we want the PLF to work as a full online pre-authorisation of the passenger, to give the airline a ‘board or don’t board’ message. Once we get to that, we can have the border moving much more effectively.”

Keller argued: “A lot of the really awkward [entry] regimes globally were because governments didn’t know how to manage their borders, didn’t know how to manage passenger volumes. It was easier to close the border than to bring in the technology to run it.

“We’re finally getting past that, to the point where the [entry] policy will be right for public health and the economy. What we had was policies being dictated by the ability [to control] the border. It was pretty much the cart before the horse.”

Barriers remain in the way of harmonising international requirements, although Keller notes the government is working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on this.

He said: “It’s going to be a long haul because ICAO can only issue guidelines on procedures. The decisions are taken by health people and scientists. So we’re a long way off, but we didn’t see harmonisation even within the EU.”

Unvaccinated travellers will also continue to face obstacles.

Keller said: “Governments have seen vaccination is the way out of this pandemic. We can see the confidence in the UK government that vaccination is working.
“To have a light‑touch set of restrictions for non‑vaccinated people would take away an incentive to be vaccinated.”

But he does foresee “more commonality about the type of test” required.

He argued: “The pre‑departure test being removed for vaccinated people coming into the UK was a massive step forward.

“A pre-departure test is pretty pointless when the rate of infection in your country is higher than the country you’re coming from. An arrival test is better and that is what the UK is now focusing on. Other countries would be better doing what the UK is doing.”

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