Europe’s Airports Warn EU of Travel Issues With new Certificate
With travel restrictions being lifted this summer throughout European countries, the EU is looking to maintain freedom of movement for its citizens while also minimizing the spread of the newly found COVID variants such as Delta. As the vaccination campaign across the continent continues, the bloc’s parliament voted on 9 June that it will launch the EU Digital COVID Certificate on 1 July.
The code provides proof that someone has been vaccinated, has a negative test or recovered from the disease. While the scheme is carried out by the EU, administering the certificate is up to each member state’s jurisdiction. Each country must also decide if they will accept the certificate after only the first dose of the vaccine, or both. So far, all EU countries are officially prepared to regulate travel with the certificate.
“We can be proud of this great achievement. The Europe that we all know and that we all want back is a Europe without barriers. The EU certificate will again enable citizens to enjoy this most tangible and cherished of EU rights – the right to free movement,” said EU institutional presidents David Sassoli, Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Antonio de Costa in a joint statement.
However, those representing airlines and airports in Europe are warning many that chaos is in store for travellers and airport employees alike if the rollout of the certificate is not well-coordinated between all member countries. In a joint letter to EU leaders, airport groups and airline representative organisations ACI, A4E, IATA and ERA cautioned against the dangers of congested travel in the coming weeks.
“As passenger traffic increases in the coming weeks, the risk of chaos at European Airports is real,” read the letter, which was sent on Monday. “A high level of fragmentation and differences in the implementation of the DCC (Digital Covid Certificate) … as well as continued duplication of document checks in several states is alarming.”
Warnings dictate that the certificate is simply not enough to facilitate travel, thus making it vital to create a more developed scheme which checks and processes the certificate and passenger locator forms before travellers arrive at the airport in order to save time.
“Coping with this increase is going to be an unprecedented challenge,” said ACI Europe Director Olivier Jankovec, who was one of the people that signed the letter. He further stressed the trouble brewing regarding time needed to verify certificates at airports, which Reuters reported that it was making him “very nervous.”
IATA’s European Vice President Rafael Schwartzman also revealed that if no solution is found, the waiting time in airports could skyrocket from three hours to five-eight hours. Before the pandemic, normal airport time for travellers was only 1-½ hours.
The European Commission is meeting today to discuss further the future of the digital certificate, while beforehand they sent out information to member states which reported concerns, especially since many countries have different methods of checking over the certificates.
The European Commission has also stated that it is assisting member states to “develop national software and apps to issue, store and verify certificates and support them in the necessary tests to on-board the gateway.” The gateway refers to the digital signature that prevents the certificate from being falsified.