The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and others say there’s at least 10 different approaches currently underway for implementing the EU’s new Digital COVID Certificate (DCC), which is set to launch on July 1.
While viewed as a “crucial enabler for the restoration of freedom of movement within Europe,” the health pass’ processes are inconsistent among the EU’s 27 Member States, IATA said on Tuesday (June 29).
As a result, airlines and airports are warning of “major operational risks.”
“Duplicate checks and lack of verification tools provided to airlines will cause unnecessary airport queues and longer processing times if not addressed by Member States,” IATA said in a release.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate, a health pass that allows European citizens to travel throughout the bloc’s 27 nations without having to quarantine, is now operational – ahead of its official launch in July.
Member states that have passed their technical tests, and are ready to issue certificates, can start using the system on a voluntary basis.
From July 1, a “phasing-in period of six weeks” will occur for countries that need additional time.
A system that will extend the EU’s digital health pass to Canadians is reportedly in the works, but the start date for something like that is still unknown.
Calls to "harmonize" the process
In a letter sent Monday (June 29) to the EU Heads of State, the industry urged leaders to harmonize DCC verification standards and protocols to avoid unnecessary airport queues and ensure a smooth passenger experience.
While the European Commission has worked with industry and delivered “in record time” a framework allowing for fully interoperable DCCs, no less than “10 different national approaches” and solutions are under review in the EU, IATA and others – ACI Europe, Europe (A4E) and European Regions Airline Association (ERA) – have pointed out.
Due to the duplication of document checks, average check-in processing times have increased 500 per cent to twelve minutes per passenger,” the groups said.
As such, the current situation “threatens the success of this summer’s air travel restart” and will undermine free movement of citizens across the EU, IATA said.
“These issues have just been flagged by the European Commission, which yesterday issued recommendations and guidance to EU states to address them,” the associations said.
“With the peak summer travel season upon us, the EU thankfully now has a number of tools and measures available to enable and support the restarting of air connectivity, alongside travel and tourism. We need Member States to urgently implement these tools in a harmonized and effective manner. We view these as essential prerequisites to travel, to avoid long passenger queues and waiting times which would create new health hazards and inevitably result in operational issues for airports and airlines,” wrote the four associations in their joint letter to Heads of State.
According to the group, to ensure a smooth travel restart, airlines and airports must urge Member States to:
- Develop a state portal to facilitate DCC verification directly by national authorities and limit health data processing by airlines. This online verification – when done off-airport through the state portal – should result in a standard signal such as a QR code provided by the passenger to the airline to facilitate the issuance of the online boarding pass;
- Ensure that the state portal for DCC verification also integrates the verification of the PLF form, ideally using the EU Digital Passenger Locator Form allowing the seat number to be provided after check-in;
- Ensure that the remaining DCC verification taking place at airports for holders of paper DCCs can be conducted using one single verifier app;
- Refrain from requesting DCC verification on arrival, as it would “serve little medical purpose, and could lead to unnecessary queuing” – as recognized in the EASA-ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol.
According to the latest EUROCONTROL forecast, aviation is not expected to make a full recovery before 2024 “at the earliest.”
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