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Etihad Airways said it is unveiling the International Air Transport Association's Travel Pass, a Covid health app being tested by various airlines around the world, to seven destinations across its network in Europe, North America and South-East Asia to simplify travel procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Passengers on Etihad Airways flights between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok, Barcelona, Geneva, Madrid, Milan, New York and Singapore can now use the app, a one-stop platform for managing Covid-19 testing and vaccination certificates, the airline said on Wednesday.
The airline is working closely with Iata to extend the digital travel app to more cities across its network.
"The feedback from the Iata Travel Pass trial has been positive, with Etihad’s guests appreciating its ease of use and data security," said Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer at the Etihad Aviation Group.
The app will provide "more guests with the option of simplifying their journey and airport experience”.
Currently, there are 74 airlines testing or committed to testing the app on 168 routes covering all continents, said Iata.
The app's testing phase will be completed globally within the next coming weeks, Nick Careen, Iata's senior vice president of operations, safety and security, said during an online presentation on July 7.
"Etihad’s decision to expand Iata Travel Pass based on positive customer feedback is a strong endorsement of the solution," said Mr Careen on Wednesday. "It is great to see the app in use, facilitating the restart of international travel.”
Etihad passengers are required to download the Iata Travel Pass app on the Android or iOS app stores, where they can add their travel itinerary, view the requirements of authorities at their destination and securely share their PCR test results, the airline said.
The app also allows users to upload vaccination certificates, easing travel procedures to destinations where vaccinations are considered a requirement.
Currently, the app is able to accept EU Digital Covid Certificates issued by all 27 member states of the bloc, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, as well as vaccine certificates from Singapore.
Etihad Airways and Emirates were among the first airlines globally to begin testing the Iata Travel Pass in April this year as part of efforts to find a common standard for travellers to validate their Covid-19 health documents and navigate travel requirements.
In June, Emirates said passengers flying between Dubai and London, Barcelona, Madrid, Istanbul, JFK airport in New York, Moscow, Frankfurt, Charles De Gaulle in Paris and Amsterdam could use the Iata Travel Pass to manage their Covid-19 vaccination and testing results.
The airline is making progress on plans to extend the app across its global network this summer, according to a statement released on June 30.
Digital health certificates will not only give governments confidence in a passenger's Covid-19 status but they will also be essential to avoiding chaos at airports once travel restarts, Mr Careen said in the online presentation earlier this month.
Without improvements to the current systems, airport processes could reach five-and-a-half hours a trip at 75 per cent pre-Covid traffic levels and eight hours a trip once pre-Covid traffic levels are reached, he said.
Before the pandemic, passengers spent about 90 minutes on average going through travel processes for every journey. The processes include check-in, security and border control, customs and baggage claim, according to Iata.
Current data indicates that airport processing times have doubled to three hours at peak times, with travel volumes at only about 30 per cent of pre-Covid levels, Iata said.
"The checking of vaccine and test certificates must be digitised and moved off airports before traffic ramps up," said Mr Careen. "The solution is digital health passes."
Iata urged governments to issue their citizens with a digital Covid-19 PCR test or vaccination certificate when they are tested or vaccinated so that they have verifiable documents on their mobile devices.
Authorities were also called on to issue proof of vaccination certificates with QR codes that can be read by airlines and that allow passengers to share their Covid test or vaccination details before travel.