IATA says that Spain is one of four countries leading the way in aligning travel policies. | Miquel À. Cañellas

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A study by IATA, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has concluded that free movement within Europe is being compromised by the failure of EU member states to harmonise Covid entry regulations. As a result, the reopening of borders is confusing travellers and businesses and not delivering the expected benefits in terms of easier travel and economic recovery.

IATA has found significant differences in how EU member states are managing travel. For example, some 30% of states using the Digital Covid Certificate are not accepting rapid testing. With the Passenger Locator Form, 45% accept it online, while 33% accept paper and online. But 11% accept paper only, while a further 11% have no locator forms at all.

There is a confused situation regarding children, with 19% of states not exempting children from testing. Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s regional vice-president for Europe, says that it is essential that European states come together on Covid travel procedures. "The good work done by the European Commission and the states to develop the certificate is being wasted by a mess of unharmonised regulations. How can passengers travel with confidence when the rules are so different in each country within the European Union? They can't be sure if their children need to be tested or not, or if they need to fill in a form on paper, online, or not at all. It's one European Union. People reasonably expect a united approach to managing travel."

Among solutions proposed by IATA is that Digital Covid Certificate verification is conducted digitally before passengers arrive at the airport. This will limit operational disruption and give certainty to passengers. IATA notes that Germany and Spain are two countries observing best practice in this area.

The association also wants universal exemption of minors from testing and vaccination requirements.

IATA highlights Spain as one of four countries leading the way in aligning policies. Such alignment is clearly needed, Schvartzman adding: "The experience over the European summer shows that a standard digital certificate is not enough: the travel processes around Covid must also be harmonised and smoothed out. We urge European states to sort out the current mess and give hard-pressed passengers greater certainty over their travel plans."