Covid pass checks add to European flight delays, figures show

Up to 20% of hold-ups due to checks on right vaccination or test certificates

Covid pass checks are adding to European flight delays, figures published on Tuesday show.

Fewer flights mean fewer delays, but the problem has not “gone away completely”, according to air navigation body Eurocontrol.

The organisation estimates that up to one-fifth of all primary flight delays in July were due to checking whether passengers have the right vaccination or test certificates for their destinations.

“Even if passengers are arriving early, in some cases it’s not early enough when there are long queues for these checks,” says Eurocontrol.


“Moreover, being departure statistics, they do not include further checks on passengers at arrival, for which there have also been anecdotal reports of substantial delays.”

Eurocontrol’s latest “data snapshot” shows that the number of delays due to immigration, customs and health jumped from next to nothing to 0.8 minutes for every flight that took off in July.

“That’s 10 per cent to 20 per cent of all primary delay that is down to the extra time taken, mostly at check-in, needed to check what the destination specifically needs, whether the passengers have the right combinations of test and vaccination certificates,” Eurocontrol says.

Typically around one in 100 departure delays fall into the immigration, customs and health category. The average flight delay in July was 11 minutes.

Digital Covid certificate

The European Union this year launched its digital Covid certificate, allowing free movement in the union to anyone with proof of vaccination, immunity or negative tests.

The Republic adopted the scheme when it eased Covid travel bans on July 19th, weeks after all other EU members began using the system.

On Monday, Dublin Airport apologised for delays experienced by customers on Sunday which caused 118 passengers to miss their flights. Travellers were forced to queue for up to two hours to get through security and many complained that most of the desks were unmanned despite the number of people flying.

Airport operator Daa spokesman Kevin Cullinane said on Monday they knew in advance the number of passengers that were going to turn up on Sunday morning, but they did not expect so many of them to arrive at once.

The number of passengers who departed the airport on Sunday was actually down 4 per cent on the previous Sunday.

“We put our hands up and apologise. We clearly didn’t have the number of security lines for the number of passengers who presented themselves in the first wave on Sunday morning,” he said.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas