A trusted source of Asia-Pacific commercial aviation news and analysis

JUNE 2021


Airports must offer digital passenger processing to avoid bloated check-in queues

next article »

« previous article


June 1st 2021

Print Friendly

The days of Asia-Pacific airport hubs thronging with passengers are long gone. Read More » When COVID-19 wanes and passengers return to flying in their pre-pandemic millions, they could be in for a shock at their departing and destination airports.

Horrendously lengthy waiting times are in store for passengers, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned last month, with the Asia-Pacific under particular threat, the association forecast.

IATA’s regional director Asia-Pacific, Conrad Clifford, told Orient Aviation earlier this month that “international travel is effectively non-existent in the region at the moment with borders still closed”.

“But when international travel does resume, this could be a huge headache for airlines and airports in the region if digital processes for managing travel health credentials (COVID-19 testing and vaccine certificates) are not in place,” he said.

“Only Singapore has announced it will accept travel health credentials presented on the IATA Travel Pass. As Asia does not have an effective pan region political structure, the risk of airport chaos is increased, especially if states do not harmonize entry requirements or introduce incompatible standards. The need for collaboration between governments and industry for this region is absolutely critical.”

Clifford was speaking after IATA released an assessment of the time passengers spent in the travel process of check-in, security, border control, customs and baggage claim pre-COVID-19 compared with the same process when the pandemic passes.

Before the virus outbreak, it took passengers an average of 1.5 hours in travel processes for every airline journey made.

“Current data indicates airport processing times have ballooned to three hours during peak time travel periods at only about 30% of pre-COVID-19 levels,” IATA said. “The greatest increases in processing times are at check-in and border control, where travel health credentials are being checked mainly as paper documents.

“Modelling suggests that without process improvements, the time spent in airport processes could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75% pre-COVID-19 traffic levels and eight hours for each air journey at 100% pre-COVID-19 traffic levels.”

IATA director general, Willie Walsh, said unless there is an automated solution for COVID-19 checks “we can see the potential for significant airport disruptions on the horizon. Already, average passenger processing and waiting times have doubled from pre-crisis peak times, reaching an unacceptable three hours”.

“And that is with many airports deploying pre-crisis level staffing for a small fraction of pre-crisis volumes. Nobody will tolerate waiting hours at check-in or border formalities. We must automate the checking of vaccine and test certificates before traffic ramps up. The technical solutions exist. But governments must agree digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them. And they must act fast,” he said.

IATA said if governments required COVID-19 health credentials for travel, integrating them into already automated processes is the solution for a smooth restart. This would need globally recognized, standardized, and interoperable digital certificates for COVID-19 testing and vaccine certificates.

“This cannot wait. More and more people are being vaccinated. More borders are opening. Booking patterns tell us pent-up demand is at extremely high levels. But governments and the competent authorities are acting in isolation and moving far too slowly. A smooth restart is still possible, but governments need to understand the urgency and act fast,” Walsh said.

next article »

« previous article



Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

* double click image to change