With the EU digital Covid-19 certificate in place, the European Commission recently issued new guidelines for EU countries to ensure increased coordination and smoother air travel when checking the certificates.
1. Guidelines for harmonisation
Following the launch of the EU’s Covid-19 passport on 1 July, the Commission has issued guidelines, on July 22, recommending the best ways to process the certificates before travel.
A survey conducted at EU national level revealed that there are currently 15 different ways of organising the verification process. A better-coordinated approach would help avoid congestion at airports and unnecessary stress for passengers and staff, the Commission suggested.
Some EU countries have, for example, decided to pass on the responsibility to verify the certificates to airports, while others have placed this obligation on airlines, and some on both.
Reaping the full benefits of the EU digital Covid-19 certificate requires the harmonisation of the verification protocol. Cooperating for a ‘one-stop’ system to check the certificates makes for a seamless travel experience for the passengers across the Union,Adina Vălean, EU Commissioner for Transport
The non-mandatory Covid-19 certificate provides either proof of vaccination, shows if a person holds a negative Covid-19 test result, or has recovered from it. The Commission and its health agencies consider the certificate “essential” to support the re-opening of safe travel.
2. Air traffic to increase
According to the Commission, passenger numbers are expected to rise over the summer and increased number of certificates will need to be checked. The airline sector is particularly concerned with the handling of Covid-19 certificates. In July for example, air traffic is expected to reach more than 60% of 2019 levels, and to continue rising afterwards.
3. Avoiding duplication
According to a recent survey from ACI Europe, the main issues encountered by operators are the multiplication of controls (64%) and the verification at airport premises (54%).
To avoid duplication, for example, checks by more than one actor — airline operators, public authorities etc. — the Commission recommends a ‘one-stop’ verification process prior to departure, involving coordination between authorities, airports and airlines.
Moreover, EU countries were urged to ensure that the verification is carried out as early as possible and preferably before the passenger arrives at the departure airport.
The ACI’s survey also revealed that 82% of operators declared that the certificates are not verified off-airport prior to departure. In some EU countries, certain rules continue to differ from wide-adopted e-Health network guidelines.
EU countries were also urged to ensure that the information published on the Re-Open EU website is complete, up to date, and easy to understand.
The Commission’s guidelines respond to the joint letter sent by Airlines for Europe (A4E), Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe), European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to EU Heads of State, on June 28. In the letter, the signatories called for increased harmonisation of verification standards and protocols to avoid airport queues checking Covid-19 certificates.