Airlines say the entrance criteria are too inconsistent around the world, stifling route relaunches and advancing air traffic development.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) claimed airline route networks are still limited by “wildly uneven” entrance regulations from country to country, and it urged governments around the world to lift travel restrictions for vaccinated passengers.
“People who are fully vaccinated [against COVID-19] should be allowed to travel without restrictions and without testing,” IATA CEO Willie Walsh told reporters at the group’s 2021 AGM in Boston.
“Travel restrictions are a complex and confusing web of rules with very little consistency among them, and there is little evidence to support ongoing border restrictions and the economic havoc they create.”
Walsh stressed the importance of governments providing a “reasonable testing regime” for passengers who do not have access to immunization or are unable to get vaccinated due to health or religious reasons. Rapid antigen testing is being promoted by IATA as the gold standard for quick and effective pre-travel COVID screening. Governments should support these exams so that they do not become impediments to travel, Walsh stressed.
“It would be grossly unfair for people who can’t access a vaccine to be prevented from flying,” Walsh said. “That’s why we’re promoting the use of rapid antigen testing, which clearly has improved in terms of its reliability over recent months versus where they were in the initial stages.”
JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes, who also serves as the chair of IATA’s Board of Governors, told reporters that IATA remains strongly opposed to potentially mandating vaccination for domestic air travel, citing the “operational complexity” of verifying vaccinations and exemptions for millions of travelers each day in large domestic markets such as the United States.
According to Hayes, mandating negative COVID testing for domestic travel may cause bottlenecks and delays in major domestic markets.
“We have up to 3 million passengers flying each day in the US, so any vaccine or testing requirement would put immense pressure on the system in terms of airport wait times,” Hayes said, adding: “We are very concerned that the US system just could not handle it at this time.”