IATA Wants Intra-EU Travel Restrictions Dropped

Airline industry trade group IATA and Airports Council International (ACI International) have called for all remaining COVID restrictions applying to intra-EU and Schengen zone travel to be dropped. This includes ending mask-wearing for travel within or between States where it is no longer required in other indoor environments, ending testing requirements, and the need to present proof of vaccination or complete a passenger locator form (PLF).

Only 10 of 27 EU member states have removed all travel restrictions

The intra-EU and Schengen zone covers 26 countries across Europe. IATA says COVID-19, and specifically, the omicron variant, is now pervasive throughout all of Europe. Some European states have lifted domestic COVID restrictions. IATA and ACI International say as more European countries open up and remove restrictions, it is only logical to remove similar restrictions from air travel.


So far, ten states have removed all restrictions on intra-EU/Schengen zone travel: Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland. But IATA and ACI have seized upon the latest research from OXERA and Edge Health that suggests even if a new variant is discovered and travel restrictions introduced immediately, this only delays the peak of infections by a maximum of only four days.


Travel restrictions deter people from traveling, directing impacting IATA and ACI International members. Photo: Getty Images

“The latest research from OXERA and Edge Health confirms that by the time a variant of concern is identified and restrictions are implemented, cross-border transmission will already have happened. Europe’s population immunity is strong and COVID-19 is essentially now an endemic disease,” says IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman.

“The time has come to focus their COVID efforts on surveillance and remove remaining intra-EU restrictions. This will free people to travel, and support jobs returning to the European air transport and travel sectors.”

COVID has already jumped borders by the time travel restrictions are implemented

OXERA is a UK-based economics and finance consultancy and Edge Health is a health data analytics firm. Their just-released research says that travel restrictions have failed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that there is unlikely to be a demonstrable benefit associated with introducing travel restrictions in response to new variants

“This is consistent with experience since the beginning of the pandemic that indicates that it is difficult to identify a variant as a variant of concern sufficiently quickly to be able to introduce travel restrictions that have an impact,” the research notes. “The effectiveness of travel restrictions is further reduced when a variant is more infectious. If the introduction of travel restrictions is delayed by even one week, the benefit of travel restrictions in terms of delaying the peak of COVID-19 cases declines by half.”


IATA  and ACI International want restrictions on intra EU/Schengen zone travel dropped. Photo: Airbus

Three things on IATA’s travel restrictions wish list

The findings are music to the ears of IATA and ACI International, whose airline and airport members have been hard hit by COVID-19. Their members want people back in the air and their revenues flowing again. Travel restrictions hamper both. Seizing on the research, IATA and ACI are now calling for laggard EU and Schengen zone countries to do three things;

  • Remove all health-related travel and border restrictions ahead of the summer season, at least on intra- EU/Schengen zone flights, specifically testing, contact tracing, and vaccine certificates
  • Align the health restrictions applicable to aviation to those applied nationally, particularly with reference to mask mandates
  • Allow those vaccinated with a World Heath Organization-approved vaccine to travel into the EU/Schengen zone from third countries with the same conditions as those passengers vaccinated with a European Medicines Agency-approved vaccine.

“The independent research and modeling published today shows that governments can lift restrictions with confidence, both for today and for any future variants of concern,” argues Olivier Jankovec, Director General at ACI Europe. “Travel restrictions have proven to be a blunt instrument with little to no impact on virus transmission. Removing all COVID-19 restrictions will finally fully restore the freedom to travel.”

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