As implementation of the EU Digital COVID Certificate entered into force across Europe on 1 July 2021, EUROCONTROL and ECAC, the European Civil Aviation Conference, are calling on all stakeholders to ensure that aviation can function efficiently and without disruptions caused by COVID-19 health checks.
Eamonn Brennan, EUROCONTROL Director General, said: “Our aim at EUROCONTROL is to get Europe flying again safely, efficiently and in the most environmentally friendly manner. To achieve that, we’ve been working closely with airlines, airports, air navigation service providers to make sure that on the operational side, we are ready for the increase in flights we expect for the summer period. However, if those flights are being delayed due to passengers waiting in queues caused by COVID-19 health checks, that work will not bring the expected outcomes, and European citizens will rightly ask why this couldn’t be better managed”.
Ingrid Cherfils, ECAC President, emphasised the importance of continuing strong cooperation among ECAC Member States, and added: “We must ensure that we take advantage of this important step so that it contributes to the revitalisation of air transport this summer, in a safe, secure way while also maintaining the integrity of passengers. A coordinated approach across ECAC Member States, and close cooperation between national aviation and health authorities, remain essential to facilitate the integration of COVID-19 health checks as part of the smooth passenger journey at the airports”.
Air traffic in Europe is currently at approximately 50% of the equivalent period in 2019, and EUROCONTROL forecasts show that this should rise to 70% by August or over 24,000 flights a day on average across Europe. With possible check-in times per passenger of up to 12 minutes, and potentially over 2.5 million passengers across the continent each day, operational partners will struggle to ensure that flights can depart on time unless actions are taken to ensure health checks are carried out in such a way as to avoid major congestion at the airports.
Useful recommendations and guidance were published by the European Commission on 28 June, including preventing duplication and verifying the EU Digital COVID Certificate as early as possible and ideally online, for example during the online check-in process.