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IATA Calls for EU States to Sort ‘Mess’ of Confusing Covid-19 Travel Rules

Photo source: European Travel Commission (ETC)

Photo source: European Travel Commission (ETC)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Thursday warned that free movement within Europe is being compromised by the failure of EU member states to harmonize Covid-19 entry regulations.

The association said that the reopening of borders is confusing travelers and businesses and not delivering the expected benefits in terms of easier travel and economic recovery.

“The experience over the European summer shows that a standard digital certificate is not enough: the travel processes around Covid-19 must also be harmonized and smoothed out. We urge European states to sort out the current mess and give hard-pressed passengers greater certainty over their travel plans,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.

According to IATA research, there are significant differences in how EU member states are managing travel:

– around 30 percent of states using the EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) are not accepting rapid testing
– 19 percent of states are not exempting children from testing requirements
– 41 percent of states are not allowing vaccinated travelers from non-EU ‘White-List’ countries to enter
– for the Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs), 45 percent accept it online, while 33 percent accept paper and online submissions. But 11 percent only accept paper, and a further 11 percent have no locator forms at all.

‘EU states must come together on COVID-19 travel procedures’

EU Digital COVID certificate. Photo © European Union 2021 - Source : EP

EU Digital COVID certificate. Photo © European Union 2021 – Source : EP

According to IATA’s Regional VP for Europe, the “good work” done by the Commission and the states to develop the DCC is being wasted by a “mess” of unharmonized regulations.

“How can passengers travel with confidence when the rules are so different in each country within the European Union? They can’t be sure if their children need to be tested or not, or if they need to fill in a form on paper, online, or not at all. It’s one Europe Union. People reasonably expect a united approach to managing travel,” said Schvartzman.

Specifically, with regard to harmonizing requirements around the EU Digital Covid Certificate, IATA and other stakeholders have urged EU states to:

Conduct DCC verification digitally before passengers arrive at the airport, to limit operational disruptions and give certainty to passengers that they are ready to fly. Germany and Spain are two countries observing best practice in this area.
Develop a state portal to facilitate DCC verification directly by national authorities and limit health data processing by airlines.
Integrate digital Passenger Locator Forms into a state portal for DCC verification, which is not currently the case in 80 percent of European countries.

Negative test result by using rapid test device for COVID-19. Photo: Shutterstock 1656883729

Photo: Shutterstock

In addition, EU states need to align on health requirements including:

universal acceptance of rapid testing in place of expensive and unnecessary PCR tests
universal exemption of minors from testing and vaccination requirements, and
– the universal opening of borders to vaccinated passengers and to allow travelers from low-risk countries to enter Europe without restriction (or with proof of a negative test from non-vaccinated travelers).

According to IATA, The Netherlands, Estonia, Slovenia and Spain are leading the way in aligning these policies.

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