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Airlines battle with falsified COVID-19 documentation

written by Hannah Dowling | April 14, 2021

A file image of a Lufthansa Airbus A350-900. (Airbus)
A file image of a Lufthansa Airbus A350-900. (Airbus)

Airlines around the world are reporting instances of being provided falsified COVID-19 health certificates, including false test results and vaccination status.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, many travellers have tried their hand at falsifying COVID-19 related health documentation, particularly as many airlines, or countries, continue to require negative COVID-19 results prior to travelling.

The International Air Transport Association has said that it has found instances of travellers providing fake health certification to airlines and immigration authorities alike across the globe, from France to Brasil, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, border control and police authorities have similarly flagged a growing number of cases, charges, and arrests over people manufacturing and selling fraudulent health documents.

In February, the European Union’s policing agency Europol announced that it had found and arrested individuals selling fake COVID-19 negative test certifications outside London’s Luton Airport, following similar cases and arrests made in Paris, and Spain.

The prevalence of such a trend is a huge concern for airlines, that will rely upon nations trusting a system of verifiable testing and vaccination in order to re-open international borders.

It also brings into question non-uniform approaches to the verification of health data across different nations, as well as the logistical problems of airline staff likely being burdened with the task of policing health information.


While many governments have introduced border restrictions, and the requirement for travellers to present negative COVID-19 tests for entry, many have palmed off the policing of such information to airlines, much like they have done with visas and right of entry passes.

In Germany, Lufthansa has been fined nearly $30,000 for allowing travellers with falsified or otherwise incorrect health documentation to board their flight, according to the WSJ.

Germany has reportedly recorded over 3,800 unlawful entries into the country between January and April alone.

Lufthansa has said it has now compiled a list of testing centres that it considers as valid within the countries it operates out of, to provide to passengers.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is new requiring health information to be forwarded to the airline directly from the health provider prior to travel for verification, according to chief executive Akbar Al Baker.

He said anyone found to be falsifying their health information will be blacklisted from the airline.

Airlines are also pushing against the trend of governments placing the burden of verifying health information onto airlines.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said, “We cannot have either our crews, nor our people at Heathrow or other airports, verifying the authenticity of all these documents.

“That would take too much time, and we’ve seen queues and processing times moving up by two to three times at the airport.”

The concerns come as nations continue to adopt their own versions of digital vaccine passports, which they hope to contain only verified health information.

Countries like Japan, China, South Korea and Vietnam have all already begun to roll out digital vaccine passports, while global organisations such as the IATA continue to develop and test their own digital health passport technologies.

Last month, US airlines and industry groups began to push the Biden administration to introduce a uniform approach to verifying COVID vaccination and testing status, in light of such concerns.

The industry raised fears that not doing so will lead to confusion and greater impact on the recovery of the aviation industry.

More than a dozen industry groups joined together to pen a letter to the White House that stated: “It is crucial to establish uniform guidance” and “the US must be a leader in this development”.

Airlines battle with falsified COVID-19 documentation Comment

  • Paul Donachy


    Whilst government continue to “pass the buck” the aviation sector will not recover as quickly as it should.
    Why should airlines have to check records?

Comments are closed.


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