Emirates became the first airline to implement the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass on six continents as the Dubai-based carrier ramps up operations to cater to recovering travel demand.
After successful trials of the Iata travel pass in April on selected routes from its Dubai hub, Emirates gradually expanded the use of the Covid-19 health app to customers on 12 routes in June, the airline said in a statement on Thursday.
The airline has now signed a contract with Iata to implement the solution across its global network.
“Emirates continues to invest in technology and solutions, like Iata travel pass, so that we can deliver smooth journeys and contactless experiences for our customers while enabling our airport teams to handle document checks efficiently and in compliance with regulatory requirements,” said Adel Al Redha, Emirates' chief operating officer.
“We are pleased to partner with Iata on the Iata travel pass solution from early pilot trials to full implementation. We will continue to work closely with Iata on enhancements to facilitate even more secure and smoother journeys for travellers,” he said.
Currently available to Emirates customers travelling from 50 cities, the roll-out across the airline’s entire network is expected to be completed by October, the company said.
Etihad Airways and Emirates were among the first airlines in the world to begin testing the 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.
Travellers can download the app and register themselves by creating a digital identity using their passport.
Passengers can use the Iata travel pass app to find accurate information on travel, Covid-19 testing and vaccine requirements for their journey. They can also access certified Covid-19 testing centres at their departure location that meet the requirements of their destination, Emirates said.
The app will allow passengers to manage their travel documentation digitally. Travellers can receive their test results and vaccination certificates directly from authorised labs and test centres, and securely share these documents with authorities and airlines to facilitate travel through the travel pass, according to Emirates airline.
“Emirates’ implementation of [the] Iata travel pass across its global network cements its role as a key tool in managing the complex myriad health credentials required for travel,” said Nick Careen, Iata senior vice president of operations, safety and security.
“By providing passengers with a one-stop shop to demystify, manage and process these credentials through a secure automated process, they can arrive at the airport ready to fly using automated processes. This will avoid queuing and congestion for document checks – to the benefit of travellers, airlines, airports and governments.”
Travellers can access more than 1,500 Covid-19 test labs via the Iata travel pass app, the statement said.
Citizens from the European Union and the UK can register their vaccine certificate on the app, and work is under way to enable a broader range of verified digital travel documents to be linked to or uploaded on the app, the statement said.
Emirates is working on “future enhancements that include enabling customers to share their digital documents for travel before they reach the airport, such as Covid-19 vaccination certificates and test results”, the airline said.
These will be securely and automatically reflected in Emirates airline’s check-in systems to facilitate a smooth and hassle-free airport experience, according to the statement.
Digital health certificates will not only give governments confidence in a passenger’s Covid-19 status but they will also be essential to avoid chaos at airports once travel restarts, Mr Careen said in July.
Without improvements to 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 at the time.
Before the pandemic, passengers spent about 90 minutes on average going through travel processes for their journeys. The processes include check-in, security and border control, customs and baggage claim, according to Iata.
“The checking of vaccine and test certificates must be digitised and moved off airports before traffic ramps up,” Mr Careen said. “The solution is digital health passes.”