© 2023 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

British Airways Owner Calls For Digital Health Passes For Passengers

A British Airways plane comes in to land behind a tail fin at Heathrow Airport in London. On Friday, the head of the group that owns BA called for instituting an electronic health pass for passengers as the company announced steep losses due to COVID-19.
Kirsty Wigglesworth
/
AP
A British Airways plane comes in to land behind a tail fin at Heathrow Airport in London. On Friday, the head of the group that owns BA called for instituting an electronic health pass for passengers as the company announced steep losses due to COVID-19.

The owner of British Airways is calling for digital health passes for passengers as a step toward getting airlines back in the sky after devastating losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Airlines Group, which also owns carriers such as Iberia and Aer Lingus, announced Friday a total annual loss of £6.4 billion ($9.8 billion) for the group after passenger traffic plunged by one third in 2020 compared to the previous year. The group's CEO, Luis Gallego, said the company was looking for "a clear roadmap" for scaling back restrictions on travel "when the time is right."

"We're calling for international common testing standards and the introduction of digital health passes to reopen our skies safely," Gallego said.

The International Air Transport Association recently said its "IATA Travel Pass" — a smartphone app that verifies that a passenger has had a negative coronavirus test or has been vaccinated — should be ready "within weeks."

"The key issue is one of confidence," said Vinoop Goel, IATA's regional director of airports and external relations, according to the BBC. "Passengers need to be confident that the testing they've taken is accurate and will allow them to enter the country ... And then governments need to have the confidence that the tests is one which is accurate," he added.

However, it's not yet clear if such a pass would be utilized by airlines or governments.

In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began requiring passengers entering the country from abroad to provide a negative coronavirus test before boarding a U.S.- bound flight.

IAG said despite its steep losses, its cargo business had helped prop up the passenger side of the operation. The company made more than 4,000 cargo-only flights last year, with revenue for the sector up strongly.

"Our results reflect the serious impact that COVID-19 has had on our business," Gallego said.

The losses at IAG have been felt worldwide throughout the airline industry, with U.S.-based carriers hit particularly hard.

In January, American Airlines posted its largest annual loss on record — $8.9 billion for 2020, with United Airlines reporting a $7.1 billion loss. Southwest Airlines posted an annual loss of $3.1 billion – its first since 1972.

IATA expects U.S. airlines to see a rebound in demand in 2021, but that it will still be down 45% from 2019, according to an analysis published in November.

In December, the U.S. Treasury began distributing $15 billion in aid approved by Congress to help airlines meet payroll through March 2021, after a similar $25 billion infusion earlier in the pandemic. As part of the COVID-19 relief package working its way through Congress, another $15 billion could go to support airline industry workers.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content