BA owner calls for digital vaccine passports to kickstart travel, boost ailing industry

The International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, has called on the government to introduce digital Covid-19 vaccine passports so that travel can resume.

The FTSE-listed company’s comments come as it reported a £6.5bn loss for 2020.

The hospitality and tourism sectors have been hit hard by border closures and travel bans to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We know there is pent-up demand for travel and people want to fly,” said Luis Gallego, IAG’s chief executive, in a statement on 26 February. “Vaccinations are progressing well and global infections are going in the right direction. We’re calling for international common testing standards and the introduction of digital health passes to reopen our skies safely.”

In its full year results, IAG said that passenger capacity in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 26.6% that of 2019 and for the full year it was 33.5% of 2019.

“While these numbers are undoubtedly bad, they aren’t surprising either, given the damage wrought on the airline sector by the pandemic,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

“[IAG’s] main problem will be getting the same levels of long-haul business travel that it had before the pandemic,” Hewson added. “This is where most big carriers make their money, and it is here that normal service may well take a little longer to return to the same levels they were in 2019.”

READ UK to review Covid certificates in a move towards reopening venues

The discussions on a certification come as the UK government conducts a review in the potential role of “Covid-state certification” in helping venues reopen safely as the country begins to lift its third nationwide lockdown.

“[The review] will include assessing to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and the potential uses to enable access to settings or a relaxation of Covid-secure mitigations,” according to the government’s 60-page roadmap document.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons on 22 February that the government would be “mindful of the many concerns surrounding exclusion, discriminatory and privacy”.

European Union leaders agreed on 25 February during a two-day virtual conference that digital vaccine passport will be necessary to avoid travel.

READ EU to roll out digital vaccine passports to restart travel within the bloc

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim