The International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 airlines worldwide, is in the final stage of developing a Travel Pass, a digital health pass that will prove passengers have tested negative for Covid-19 or have had a vaccine shot. The new app could help kick-start international travel.
“Today, borders are double locked. Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and chief executive, who will step down from his role at the end of March 2021. Willie Walsh, former chief executive of International Airlines Group, will succeed him.
“The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveller identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of the Travel Pass,” Mr de Juniac added.
The Iata Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories and travellers, the organisation said in a statement on Tuesday.
The first cross-border Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year, while the launch is slated for the first quarter of next year.
The Travel Pass will provide accurate information on travel, testing and vaccine requirements for a passenger’s journey. It will display information on testing centres and labs at the departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements in the destination. The pass will also display test results along with proof of inoculation, as well as listing national entry rules.
In a briefing, Iata’s head of passenger and security products, Alan Murray Hayden, said the Travel Pass will be free to travellers and governments, with airlines paying a small fee per passenger to use the service. It will be based on the existing Iata Timatic system to verify documents. The app will use block-chain technology and won’t store data, Mr Hayden said.
An Iata survey revealed that 83 per cent of people would not travel if it required quarantine. It also showed that 88 per cent of travellers would be willing to be tested if it enabled travel. The same survey also revealed that 65 per cent believe that quarantine should not be necessary if someone tests negative for Covid-19.
“Our main priority is to get people travelling again safely. In the immediate term, that means giving governments confidence that systematic Covid-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements,” said Nick Careen, Iata’s senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security.
“That will eventually develop into a vaccine programme. The Travel Pass is a solution for both.”
The travel body has urged governments to act quickly and implement a globally harmonised and systematic approach to Covid-19 testing.
This includes governments verifying the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting the test certificates. Airlines must provide accurate information to passengers on test requirements and verify that a passenger meets the requirements for travel. Laboratories must issue digital certificates to passengers that will be recognised by governments, while travellers need to convey accurate test information to airlines and border authorities.
Qantas Airways said it plans to require future international passengers to have a Covid-19 vaccination before they fly and said it’s likely to become a requirement at airlines across the world.
A vaccination will be a “necessity” for travellers entering and leaving Australia on a Qantas flight, chief executive Alan Joyce said in an interview with Channel 9 in Australia.
“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say, for international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” Mr Joyce said.
He added that he has discussed the idea with other airlines globally. “It’s going to be a common theme across the board.”
Separately, the Iata has welcomed the publication of the Manual on Testing and Cross Border Risk Management Measures by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. This document provides governments a risk-based assessment tool for using testing programmes that could alleviate quarantine requirements.