EUROCONTROL recently held a webinar which kicked off with a review of the current flying stats at the airline level in the EU. Cargo flights are the only flights that are truly recovering verses the level of air traffic at this time in 2019. If you consider the most well-known cargo airlines you can see growth across the board.  UPS is up 1%, FedEx is up 9% and DHL is up 12%. I don’t know about you but based on the amount of Amazon shopping I do these days, this doesn’t surprise me. It will be interesting to see how this trend fares when everyone can go to a physical shop again.

The state of commercial airlines is not so promising. Overall, the international statistics show flights at only about 20 – 25% of this time in 2019. If you break this down globally, different regions tell a very different story. Let’s consider domestic travel within regions. China has not only recovered, but exceeded 2019 domestic flight levels by achieving more than 100% of the traffic levels compared to two years ago. The US is also showing promise with domestic flights at about 60 – 70% of prior levels. Europe, on the other hand, is not faring so well. This region is only at about 30 – 40% of domestic flight levels.

Eamonn Brennan, Director General of EUROCONTROL, stated that “vaccines are the key to reopening travel.” Not only do we need more access to vaccines, how do we then use this knowledge to help get people flying again.

IATA has developed a travel pass initiative to provide a consistent solution across airports and airlines that can stand on its own or be integrated with existing airline travel apps. The app allows you to upload your passport information digitally to prove your identity alongside your COVID-19 vaccination and testing status. Once your upcoming flight information is entered, the app will notify you of the regulations for travel to that location and whether you are approved to fly. COVID-19 information is input to the tool via medical professionals and the data is resident on your smartphone avoiding the possibility for data privacy concerns due to the use of a centralised database. They’ve also developed a video that clearly explains the functionality. 

Although it’s great to see a global organisation working to standardise a solution to this problem, I still wonder how this will work as different airlines, airports, immigration authorities, etc. etc. develop their own health passport apps. Everyone is doing so, even cities. New York City has just launched its own health passport for access to entertainment venues within the city. Open APIs and the ability to share data is one solution, but the travelling public isn’t likely to want a separate app for every place they want to go. We’re used to different hotel and airline apps, but now that entertainment venues and possibly even restaurants jump on board, this will become really cumbersome, really fast.