EUROCONTROL data shows delays caused by passenger COVID forms
EUROCONTROL’s Data Snapshot highlights the vital delays that the additional checking of passenger COVID-19 documents is causing flights and the anticipated delay results for August 2021.
With fewer flights due to COVID-19, passengers have naturally experienced fewer delays. However, delays have not gone away entirely, with baggage loading or refuelling still causing setbacks, as well as aircraft requiring an extra check from an engineer before leaving. Data from airlines in July 2021 shows the average delay per flight on departure was 11 minutes, an improvement from 18 minutes in July 2019. However, not all types of delay are down.
To track and improve their performance, airlines classify the causes of delays on departure:
- ‘primary’ causes include the majority of which in a typical month are linked to one of the airline’s own processes, such as refuelling or aircraft technical checks
- ‘primary’ causes also includes airport-related delays such as congestion on the ramp and air traffic management delays
- ‘reactionary’ delay, which is delay carried over from a previous flight
One rare primary cause is the ‘immigration, customs and health’ category, e.g., for delays at passport control. In a typical year, only about one per cent of delay falls in this category.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, departure delays due to ‘immigration, customs and health’ have increased to 0.6 to 0.8 minutes for every flight. Indeed, preliminary data for July 2021 reached 0.8 minutes per flight. That is 10 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. Furthermore, even if passengers are arriving early, in some cases it is not early enough when there are long queues for these checks. Moreover, being departure statistics, these do not include further checks on passengers at arrival, for which there have also been anecdotal reports of substantial delays.
Overall, more passengers over the summer months results in airlines and airports requiring carrying out even more such checks. Therefore, it is expected that data for August 2021 to be as low as July 2021, before any improvements are seen.