Iata Travel Pass: Virgin Atlantic to trial 'health passport' app on London to Barbados flights

Travellers will be able to upload their negative Covid-19 test results to the app, rather than carry paper copies

Virgin Atlantic will trial Iata's Travel Pass on flights between London and Barbados next month. Pixabay
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Virgin Atlantic is the latest airline to announce it will trial digital health passes, also known as health passports.

The airline with headquarters in the UK will test the International Air Transport Association's Travel Pass on its London to Barbados route from April 16.

The one-month trial is designed to "pave the way for the introduction of digital health passes", the airline said on Friday, as well as show governments around the world that apps displaying Covid-19 test results and vaccine certificates can launch a travel recovery.

Barbados has said it will accept the pass at its border, one of the first countries to accept a digital pass instead of paper checks.

Passengers flying on Virgin Atlantic's VS131 route from London Heathrow to Barbados will be invited to download the Iata Travel Pass. The free app currently allows users to upload pre-departure test results and plans to soon allow travellers to share their vaccine records.

Tourists must present a negative PCR test taken within three days of their arrival to Barbados. Unsplash
Tourists must present a negative PCR test taken within three days of their arrival to Barbados. Unsplash

Barbados is welcoming travellers, who must fill out an immigration and customs form online at least 24 hours before departure. Tourists must also have proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within three days of their arrival at the Caribbean nation.

“When the skies reopen, rapid, affordable testing combined with digital health integration will be vital to streamline and simplify the customer experience, make border health checks manageable and build consumer confidence," said Corneel Koster, chief customer and operating officer at Virgin Atlantic.

"Governments, industry and technology companies need to work together to lead the adoption of digital solutions with global common standards that are accepted at borders.”

Overseas holidays are currently banned owing to the UK's coronavirus rules, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to make an announcement on Monday, April 5 about lifting restrictions.

Airlines are hoping that the UK and other countries will approve the use of digital passes on apps, allowing travel to resume at scale. Without them, airport checks on several paper forms will cause huge queues and could limit traveller numbers.

Virgin has asked the UK government if they would trial use of the Iata app at the border for return flights from Barbados into London Heathrow.

"Technology is moving fast and global standards are developing fast on this front, therefore trialling a leading solution like this would be the way to go," said Koster.

The UAE's Etihad Airways and Emirates are already working with Iata to adopt its Travel Pass. Etihad said its passengers will be able to use the app in the first quarter of this year. Emirates will begin trials in April before fully adopting it across its network.

Additional reporting by Reuters