French airline head supports Covid 'travel passes'

The head of the International Air Traffic Association says mandatory testing and ‘health passports’ will improve passenger numbers, rather than enforced vaccination

30 November 2020
Passengers seated on a plane. French CEO says Covid tests, not vaccine, will save air travelHealth passports will verify that travellers have been tested at a verified testing centre before they travel
By Joanna York

In an interview with news source Ouest France, Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) discussed plans for a “health passport” for travellers to be released in January, and said he did not think mandatory vaccination for passengers was necessary.

Figures from IATA show the number of global air passengers fell to 1.8 billion in 2020, down 60.5% from 4.5 billion passengers in 2019. With 2.8 billion passengers expected in 2021, the group does not expect traffic to return to former levels until 2024.  

When asked whether he thought vaccination against Covid-19 would help increase air traffic travel, Mr de Juniac said he thought testing was a better option. “Testing really must become mandatory. I am not for mandatory vaccination. There are many reasons to be optimistic when governments can use testing to reopen borders,” he said.

This comes as CEO of Australian airline Qantas has said testing will be mandatory for passengers.  

 

Health passports to be released in January 

He added that health passports called “travel passes”, to be released in January, would help verify the Covid testing process. The passes would rely on test results from verified testing centres to give travellers an official bill of clean health, meaning they could travel. 

He said: “[Travel passes] are based on our Timatic system which gives complete information on required travel documents for each passenger for international journeys, in every country. Travel passes will put together this data with a list of certified testing centred in each country.”

Mr de Juniac said that while government support for the air travel sector around the world had been strong, recent falls in traffic needed to be covered by an extra US $80 billion (€66.7 billion).

He predicted that with measures such as testing, health passports and vaccination in place, domestic flights would be the first kind of air travel to see a rise in passenger numbers, with intercontinental and business travel taking longer to recover. 

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