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Air bridges, travel bubbles and health passports: the travel terms you need to know in 2020

These are the ideas that could help us travel again – and sooner than we think

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

If you’ve been trying to think ahead to your next big getaway, you’ve probably hit a number of obstacles. First, it’s unclear when exactly we might be able to travel again. Second, your options are very much up in the air, and likely to be severely limited. And third, all manner of unfamiliar travel terms have suddenly come into common, constantly evolving usage. Travel bubble? Air bridge? Health passport? Here, briefly, we run through what all those nebulous buzzwords actually mean.

Travel bubble

Countries around the world are teaming up to form ‘bubbles’ that expand their citizens’ travel options – much like the ‘social bubble’ model that has been proposed or implemented for households in several nations. First Australia and New Zealand, then the Baltic states and now Greece, Cyprus and Israel have suggested they could set up ‘safe tourism zones’ with mutual travel permitted. So far, the Baltic bubble is the only one that has actually happened.

Air bridge

This is similar to a travel bubble, but involves countries that are not necessarily in close proximity. The UK’s transport secretary Grant Shapps has suggested that ‘air bridges’ could be set up between countries with similarly low infection rates, allowing them to travel from one to the other without being quarantined on arrival (or their return home). At the moment, the British government has said anyone arriving in the UK will soon be subject to a 14-day quarantine. But with a few bridges built, who knows?

Health passport

In July, the first flight will leave carrying passengers with a digital health passport proving they are virus-free. The Hi+ Card company of Spain’s Canary Islands has been chosen by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) to develop a mobile app that will store passengers’ medical records and allow them to travel ‘safely and traceably’. If the trial is successful, the technology is likely to be rolled out to other destinations.

Travel may be on the cards this year, but not quite as we know it. Here’s everything we know so far about when we might be able to travel againwhen flights might resume, and which European countries are lifting lockdown restrictions.

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