The wait times indicate the potetial trouble ahead.
- Pre-COVID-19, passengers, on average, spent about 1.5 hours in travel processes for every journey (check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim).
- Current data indicates that airport processing times have ballooned to 3.0 hours during peak time with travel volumes at only about 30% of pre-COVID-19 levels. The greatest increases are at check-in and border control (emigration and immigration) where travel health credentials are being checked mainly as paper documents.
- Modelling suggests that, without process improvements, the time spent in airport processes could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75% pre-COVID-19 traffic levels, and 8.0 hours per trip at 100% pre-COVID-19 traffic levels.
“Without an automated solution for COVID-19 checks, we can see the potential for significant airport disruptions on the horizon. Already, average passenger processing and waiting times have doubled from what they were pre-crisis during peak time—reaching an unacceptable three hours. And that is with many airports deploying pre-crisis level staffing for a small fraction of pre-crisis volumes. Nobody will tolerate waiting hours at check-in or for border formalities. We must automate the checking of vaccine and test certificates before traffic ramps-up. The technical solutions exist. But governments must agree digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them. And they must act fast,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
If Governments require COVID-19 health credentials for travel, integrating them into already automated processes is the solution for a smooth restart. This would need globally recognized, standardized, and interoperable digital certificates for COVID-19 testing and vaccine certificates.
- avoid fraudulent documentation
- enable advance “ready-to-fly” checks by governments
- reduce queuing, crowding and waiting time in airports through integration with self-service check-in (via the internet, kiosks or mobile phone apps)
- increase security through integration with digital identity management being used by border control authorities.
The G20 has identified a similar solution. The G20 Rome Guidelines for the Future of Tourism call for a common international approach on COVID-19 testing, vaccination, certification, and information as well as promoting digital traveler identity.
The G7, which meets is mid-June, can further the effort to make health credentials digital. “A good first step would be G7 agreement, with industry input, on a common set of COVID-19 travel requirements. The next step would be implementing and mutually recognizing those requirements. If the G7 took these leadership measures, the freedom to travel could be seamlessly restored for about a third of all journeys. Other countries could build on that leadership for a safe and efficient global restart of connectivity,” said Walsh.