Europe’s busiest airport banking on vaccine passports to revive air travel

April 14, 2021, 6:01 PM UTC

Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, is banking on vaccine passports to make travel easier between countries still grappling with the pandemic.

In Europe, the U.K. is in pole position to vaccinate its entire population and end travel restrictions, leaving many gasping for a summer holiday at a European destination. When summer arrives, Heathrow airport is hoping PCR testing for COVID-19 won’t be necessary if travelers are already vaccinated, ending the near standstill in air travel since the COVID-19 pandemic led to lockdowns starting in March 2020.

In a live interview with European air traffic watchdog, Eurocontrol, the airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye said there should be a “standardization” and “commonality” between countries to safely allow international travel.

He added that vaccine certifications and testing regulations will make it easier for everyone to know what rules they must obey.

Meanwhile, Eamonn Brennan, Director General at Eurocontrol, said it is important for countries to adopt a “green passport” where vaccinated people would not be subject to quarantines or overly rigorous restrictions.

Heathrow airport is currently losing £5 million ($7 million) a day through the loss in revenue from depressed passenger numbers.

Kaye notes summer travel is “crucial” for the airline industry noting “unless we get a strong summer, then many airports around Europe will really struggle to survive as will some airlines as well.”

Somewhat more optimistically, a number of airlines have seen around a 20% increase in their bookings for the months of June, July and August, Brennan said.

Across the pond, the U.S.’s Centre for Disease Control announced that vaccinated travelers will not need testing at any point during travel.

The U.K currently intends to use a traffic light system, where restrictions on traveling depends on the levels of COVID-19 infections in the destination country. The categorizations have yet to be announced.

Across Europe 11,280 flights were completed on April 12 , some 64% lower than on the same day ­­­in 2019 before the pandemic hit.