ALTA Pushes Latin America To Accept Digital Health Certificates

The airline industry is calling Latin American and Caribbean governments to adopt the European digital COVID certificate (DCC) system. Using the DCC system would facilitate the recovery of air transport in the region, according to leading aviation bodies. Let’s investigate further.

The airline industry wants Latin America to use the European Digital COVID Certificate. Photo: Getty Images.

The need for harmonization

Over the last few months, the airline industry has called on governments to establish ground rules regarding the new travel rules and restrictions. Airlines and passengers need harmonization to promote confidence.

Recently, the Latin American & Caribbean Air Transport Association executive director, José Ricardo Botelho, discussed the topic while speaking at Simple Flying’s Future Flying Forum. He said,

“We need to talk with governments and provide them with the right information. As an association, ALTA has done this job 24/7 for the last two years in order to say, ‘look, we need to harmonize the process, to give confidence and bring the travelers back.’” 

Nonetheless, progress has been painfully slow so far and subject to unforeseen changes. For instance, the latest COVID variant, Omicron, led to many countries reimposing travel restrictions across the globe. This latest development has put “at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild,” said Willie Walsh, Director General at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Latin American countries have not been consistent regarding the travel restrictions imposed to control the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images.

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How about Latin America?

In Latin America, there has never been a unified approach towards the COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries never closed, like Mexico, and now are seeing the benefits (in terms of the airline industry) that this decision has provided. On the other hand, there were some like Chile and Argentina that imposed heavy travel restrictions and are just starting to recover.

Therefore, IATA, ALTA, the Airport Council International (ACI-LAC), and other associations issued a joint statement. They are calling on Latin American and Caribbean governments to adopt the European DCC system to facilitate the recovery of air transport in a harmonized manner.

These organizations argue that international travel would benefit significantly if vaccinated passengers were exempted from quarantine and governments adopted a harmonized approach. In order to do so, a vaccination certification and verification system are needed. It also should be simple, agile, robust, and inexpensive.

The European Union’s DCC tick all these boxes because it is an open software, interoperable, and free of charge.

Worldwide, nearly 100 countries are already connected to the DCC or are in the process of doing so. Unfortunately, in Latin America, only Panama has done so. Colombia and Uruguay have signaled definite interest while Argentina, Chile, and the Dominican Republic are looking into it, said the associations.

The Latin American recovery

So far, the recovery in the region has varied greatly. For instance, Mexico and Colombia have recovered most of their pre-pandemic capacity, according to OAG. In December, Mexico is offering 70,115 flights, according to Cirium, just 7.3% below 2019 levels (but 1.8% more seats). Colombia is offering 34,419 flights, and it is also 7.3% below 2019 levels in terms of capacity and 0.5% above the number of seats provided.

However, cumulatively, the Latin America and Caribbean region is offering 278,379 flights in December 2021, 18.09% below its pre-pandemic numbers.

Do you think the Latin American governments can reach a consensus and use the DCC system? Let us know in the comments below. 

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