Aviation cannot afford to remain in pandemic mode whilst the rest of the economy restarts: this was the overarching message of the latest meeting of the leaders of Airlines for Europe (A4E) in Brussels this week.
Leaders of the group, including Air Baltic, the Lufthansa Group, Icelandair, Ryanair and Vueling, reunited in Brussels today for the third-annual A4E COO Forum, marking the first time that A4E airlines have met in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Haphazard Colour Coded System
During the COO debate, the COOs of Air Baltic, Icelandair, Ryanair and Vueling acknowledged the findings of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) that EU travel restrictions have not had a significant impact on reducing virus transmission, hospitalisations or deaths.
As a result, they called for an immediate end to the EU’s haphazard, colour-coded system, which they claim has led to very complex rules, confusion and frustration among passengers, long airport and call centre queues, flight delays and cancellations as well as higher operational costs.
An EU Operational Exit Plan from the crisis should coordinate, among other elements, common rules on:
– when to stop requesting passengers to wear face masks, as vaccination rates increase and the mandate is lifted for other modes of transport,
– when to discontinue the use of passenger locator forms (PLFs).
The COOs also urged EU leaders to focus on restoring international air travel as quickly as possible by building on the success of the DCC.
Since its launch in June 2021, the DCC has quickly become the de facto global standard, with over half a billion certificates from 43 countries downloaded thus far. Going forward, the COOs stressed the need for national governments to speed up the development of technological solutions which could facilitate verification of DCCs as part of passengers’ usual online check-in process — ensuring a smoother travel experience whilst reducing the need for manual checks at the airport.
Resumption of EU-US Travel Corridor
Finally, the COOs welcomed the planned resumption of the EU-US travel corridor, which will reunite families and friends who have been separated for the last 18 months.
To ensure airlines can be fully prepared, however, a clear date is urgently needed, together with an alignment of travel rules concerning vaccinated individuals and recognition by the U.S. authorities of DCCs held by European travellers.
“A common approach between the EU and the US is paramount to provide clarity and ensure passenger confidence,” , said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of Airlines for Europe (A4E).
“Travellers on both sides of the Atlantic must be assured that flights are not only back up and running – but that the system actually works in practice.
“To facilitate this, we have urged the U.S. authorities to use the WHO-approved vaccine list as the working basis for future discussions and we are confident that a coherent approach can be agreed in the coming weeks.”
European aviation remains one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
Since March 2020, A4E airlines have lost 6 million flights vs 2019. According to the latest IATA forecast, Europe’s airlines are not expected to post a profit in 2021 or 2022.