IATA Pushes Governments To Ease COVID-19 Entry Rules

Airlines argue that entry rules are too inconsistent around the world, hindering route relaunches and air traffic development.

IATA said airline route networks continue to be hampered by "wildly inconsistent" entry requirements from country to country and called on governments around the world to remove 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 said it is vital that governments also offer a “sensible testing regime” for passengers who lack access to vaccination or cannot get vaccinated for health or religious reasons. IATA is promoting rapid antigen testing as its gold-standard for fast and effective pre-travel COVID screening. Those tests should be funded by governments so they do not become barriers to travel, Walsh added.

“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, 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 like the US.

Hayes said that requiring negative COVID tests for domestic travel could lead to bottlenecks and delays in large 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.”

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