Nearly everybody knows that if you’re going to travel internationally, you need a passport. Now an international airline trade association is working to create a mobile app to be used as a digital health pass. Think of it as a “COVID passport” intended to make it easy for travelers to cross international borders.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced it is in the final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass. The association, which represents nearly 300 airlines that collectively carry more than 80 percent of all air travelers globally, says the pass would include a passenger’s testing and vaccine information and would manage and verify information among governments, airlines, laboratories, and travelers.
“Today borders are double locked,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in a statement. “Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share, and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of IATA Travel Pass.”
Roadblocks To Opening Borders
IATA has previously explained that to re-open borders without quarantine and restart aviation, governments need to be confident they have the means to effectively mitigate the risk of importing COVID-19. Doing so requires having accurate information on passengers’ COVID-19 health status.
To gain that information, however, passengers need information concerning tests, vaccines, and other measures that are required before they travel, the association explains. That includes informing passengers about details on where they can get tested, as well as giving them the ability to share their tests and vaccination results in a verifiable, safe, and privacy-protecting manner.
“Our main priority is to get people traveling again safely,” Nick Careen, IATA's senior vice president of Airport, Passenger, Cargo, and Security, said. “In the immediate term that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements -- and that will eventually develop into a vaccine program.”
Alan Murray Hayden, IATA’s head of passenger and security products, said during a briefing that the app will be based upon IATA’s existing Timatic platform, which is used by airlines and travel agents to verify passengers’ travel documents and ensure compliance with passport and visa regulations. He also explained that the app will rely on block-chain technology and won’t store personal data.
A test program will begin with British Airways parent International Airlines Group this year, IATA said. The launch is slated for the first quarter of 2021 on Apple devices, and sometime in April for Android devices.
Other Ways To Manage Data
It’s worth pointing out that some airlines are already taking steps to make international travel easier. American Airlines, for example, has begun offering customers access to the mobile app VeriFLY. The so-called “mobile wellness wallet solution” will help travelers easily understand COVID-19 testing and documentation requirements for their destination and streamline airport check-in through digital verification.
“Piloting this new solution is a direct response to our customers’ increasing desire to explore more international travel opportunities,” said American Airlines President Robert Isom in a statement. “The app will help us deliver a more seamless travel experience as we support demand to return and put customers’ minds at ease that they are fully prepared for their trip.”