Global aviation body Iata has warned of chaos in airports unless governments move quickly to adopt digital processes.
The association has urged authorities to adopt technology to manages areas like travel health credentials, COVID-19 and vaccine certificates.
It points to data that shows pre-pandemic passengers spent 1.5 hours on travel processes for every journey but that this has doubled to three hours despite volumes being at only 30%.
Iata said the greatest increases are at check-in and border control where travel health credentials are being checked mainly as paper documents.
Modelling suggests time spent in airport processes could reach 5.5 hours per trip at 75% pre-COVID-19 traffic levels, and 8 hours per trip at 100% pre-COVID-19 traffic levels.
Willie Walsh, Iata director general, said: “Without an automated solution for COVID-19 checks, we can see the potential for significant airport disruptions on the horizon.
“Already, average passenger processing and waiting times have doubled from what they were pre-crisis during peak time—reaching an unacceptable three hours.
“And that is with many airports deploying pre-crisis level staffing for a small fraction of pre-crisis volumes. Nobody will tolerate waiting hours at check-in or for border formalities.
“We must automate the checking of vaccine and test certificates before traffic ramps-up. The technical solutions exist.
“But governments must agree digital certificate standards and align processes to accept them. And they must act fast.”