Emirates airline and the Dubai Health Authorities (DHA) signed an agreement for the digital verification of travellers' Covid-19 testing and vaccination records, making Dubai one of the first cities in the world to implement the system.
Under the agreement, the two entities will link the IT systems of DHA-approved laboratories with Emirates’ reservations and check-in systems, the airline said in a statement on Thursday. This will allow data related to passengers' Covid-19 infection, testing and vaccination to be shared, stored and verified in a "secure and legally compliant" way, the airline said.
“Dubai is a leading global air transport hub, as well as one of the world’s most progressive cities in the area of e-government services. It’s a natural step to combine our capabilities to implement digital verification of Covid-19 medical records, which will also enable contactless document verification at Dubai Airport," Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman and chief executive, said.
The move will "tremendously improve" the traveller experience, as well as the reliability, efficiency and compliance with entry requirements imposed by destinations around the world, Sheikh Ahmed said.
The project will start immediately, with the aim of going live in the coming months, according to the statement.
On Wednesday, the airline industry's main trade body urged governments to work with the industry to prepare for the safe restart of travel once governments agree to reopen borders.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) called on governments to issue digital Covid-19 testing and vaccination certificates so that travellers have a verifiable document on their mobile phones. It also called on border agencies to accept passengers' digital Covid-19 testing and vaccination on the travellers' mobile phones and not only on paper.
Digital health credentials systems must be secure, work with existing systems, align with global standards, and ensure data privacy, Alexandre de Juniac, Iata's director general, said.
"We need global standards to record vaccinations and test results. Speed is critical. Fraudulent Covid-19 test results are already proving to be an issue," he said. "And as vaccine programmes ramp up governments are using paper processes and differing digital standards to record who has been vaccinated. These are not the conditions needed to support a successful restart at scale when governments open borders."
Iata is forging ahead with its own Travel Pass, a Covid-19 digital health passport that it hopes will ease cross-border travel as vaccines reach more people.
The Iata Travel Pass is expected to launch in March and a second release in April with more features.
About 20 airlines, including Emirates and Etihad Airways, have begun trials of the Iata Travel Pass. Another 20 carriers have requested trials.