The January passenger performance at -72% compared to 2019 is a deep concern for the aviation industry. It is even worse than the -69% in December.
The vaccine roll-out and the increase in testing capacity—particularly as governments show renewed interest in rapid antigen tests—is good news. But until governments ease travel restrictions a significant improvement is unlikely.
Alexandre de Juniac, Director General & CEO, IATA, said: “We continue to focus on being prepared for when governments are able to ease restrictions. As you know, we have asked governments to share their plans and benchmarks for re-opening. Those discussions are ongoing
“Understanding government plans is important because restarting an airline is not like flipping a switch. Airlines need to ready their crew and aircraft. After a year of lockdowns, this requires checks and coordination. On top of that airlines will need time to market the potential services so that the re-start of operations will have some passengers.
“We understand how many people and jobs are counting on us to restart operations as soon as governments will allow. So we want to ready from day one.
“An important part of our preparations is IATA Travel Pass. This will help passengers and airlines manage traveler health credentials.”
He informed that IATA Travel Pass is not a vaccine passport. Initially it will hold test data which governments are already requiring. And it can accommodate vaccine data, should governments require it.
Moreover, IATA is not asking for vaccination to be a requirement. It is governments, not airlines, that will decide what travelers need to enter their country. There are significant populations who cannot or will not be vaccinated. As a practicality, we are preparing for governments to use a combination of testing and vaccination to re-open borders, he said and added that there is a need for digital solution to manage health requirements.
“Paper can be a back-up. But unless we can get the majority of travelers processed electronically, we will not be able to handle a ramp-up of activity. Traditional check-in with paper documentation can be an option, but it cannot be the main way of operating,” he informed.