Airports and airlines warn over “fragmented approach” to COVID Digital Certificates

EUROPE. Airports and airlines have warned that a “fragmented approach” to introducing the EU COVID Digital Certificate across Europe – planned for launch on 1 July – will hurt the resumption of travel this Summer.

The EU’s Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) system is seen as a crucial enabler for the restoration of freedom of movement within Europe. But organisations such as ACI Europe, Airlines for Europe, the European Regions Airline Association and International Air Transport Association are warning of major operational risks due to the inconsistent approach by Member States in applying the scheme across the region.

In a letter sent yesterday to EU Heads of State, the industry urged leaders to harmonise DCC verification standards and protocols, to avoid unnecessary airport queues and ensure a smooth passenger experience. The organisations said that no fewer than ten different national approaches and solutions are currently under review across the EU, despite work by the EU Commission to allow for a common framework.

Document and health checks have led to sharp increases in average check-in times, say ACI Europe and other organisations, undermining the consumer experience at airports

They said: “Combined with a lack of full and effective integration of the DCC in the passenger journey, as well as duplication of document checks both pre-departure and upon arrival (average check-in processing times, for example, have increased +500% to twelve minutes per passenger) the current state of play threatens the success of this Summer’s air travel restart and will undermine free movement of citizens across the EU. These issues have just been flagged by the European Commission which yesterday issued the recommendations and guidance to EU states to address them.”

They added that verification of the DCC must take place well in advance of departure and ahead of passengers arriving at the airport, together with Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs) and without duplication of checks.

“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 harmonised 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,” said the four associations in their joint letter to heads of state.

To ensure a smooth travel restart, airlines and airports continue to urge all 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 (dPLF) 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 recognised in the EASA-ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol.

Passenger traffic across the EU/EEA/Swiss airport network was still down by -77% in early June compared to pre-pandemic levels. Similarly, the recovery in air connectivity is proceeding at a slow pace, with over 5,600 air routes lost this month compared to June 2019, said the bodies.

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