Vaccination certificates not enough to save the summer, aviation sector warns
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Vaccination certificates not enough to save the summer, aviation sector warns

Credit: Belga/Brussels Airport

While the European aviation sector is satisfied with the Commission’s proposal to introduce a vaccination certificate, a “wider restart plan” is needed to save the summer.

The “Digital Green Certificate” that should make it possible to travel safely across the EU next summer is a “key tool” to facilitate a safe and efficient resumption of travel and tourism in Europe, the sector said in a press release on Wednesday.

Industry associations, including Airlines for Europe (A4E), ACI EUROPE (Airports Council International) and International Air Transport Association (IATA), call on the EU Council and the European Parliament to “urgently” approve the proposal, so it is operational by the summer travel peak.

“We call on the European Parliament and Council to work on its swift adoption [of the certificate] via an emergency procedure,” the leaders of the associations said.

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“A safe restart of air travel is possible, but States must now do their part by acting in a coordinated manner, to avert yet another patchwork solution of fragmented agreements borne out of frustration and necessity,” they added.

Work on an EU roadmap setting out the conditions, criteria and possible timing for the easing and lifting of travel restrictions “must” begin, the sector urged.

The roadmap should also include “a simple, harmonised implementation of testing policies,” they said, adding that as long as this is not in place, “hundreds of thousands of travel and tourism businesses and their employees across Europe are left in the dark about their future for a restart and related planning.”

Additionally, the said, the lack of a detailed plan is also preventing Europeans from planning longed-for family reunions, business trips or holidays, which will be “crucial in helping to restore Europe’s economies.”

Belgium needs an ‘exit plan’

In Belgium, the CEO of airline company Brussels Airlines Peter Gerber, stated that the certificates are “essential” for the restart, but that they must be accompanied by uniform rules across the EU.

He pointed out that air traffic is currently being held back by constantly changing travel restrictions and rules that are different in each country.

According to Gerber, vaccination certificates are a suitable tool to replace “bans and quarantines” with tests and vaccinations.

“Now, it is important that the European Parliament and the European Council give the green light as soon as possible,” he said. “At the same time, the Member States must start applying the European standard so that the systems are uniform and integrated. Europe needs a common approach here.”

Additionally, an open letter signed by 558 travel agencies in Belgium on Wednesday stated that “the travel sector needs a concrete ‘exit plan’ and clarity on whether we will be able to travel this summer. Otherwise, 2021 will be another lost year, with all its financial and mental consequences.”

For the Flemish travel agencies, it is simple: people want to go on holiday and travel agencies want to sell those holidays, wrote Koen van den Bosch, CEO of the Association of Flemish Travel Agents (VVR).

He asks for “a clear and feasible plan” for travelling during the summer months. “I understand that politicians take measures to contain the virus.”

“However, after a year of Covid-19, we expect a more adapted, proportional approach that is in line with what Europe is doing,” said van den Bosch. “The end does not justify the means.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times