IATA Says Digital Airline Pass Will Be Ready ‘Within Weeks’

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that a digital version of the Covid passport will be ready in the next few weeks, a development it says will enable faster recovery of international air travel.

The digital passport will be an application downloaded onto a smartphone that confirms a passenger has tested negative for COVID-19 or has been vaccinated against the virus, British Broadcasting Corp said.

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It also confirms that they were under the authority of a recognised organisation.

The most important point is trust. Passengers must be assured that the tests they pass are correct and will allow them to enter the country, said Vinop Goel, IATA’s regional director for airports and foreign affairs. And governments must then ensure that the tests the passengers claim to have undergone are accurate and correspond to their own circumstances.

Current trend

The application will be available on iOS and Android platforms and is said to be free. Singapore Airlines was the first airline to test the fare chart in December. Other airlines such as Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand are currently conducting trials.

We are currently working with a number of airlines around the world and learning from these pilots. And the plan is to go live in March, Goel said. We therefore hope to have a fully functional system in place in the coming weeks.

Ralph Hollister, travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, said the IATA Travel Pass is not the golden ticket to an immediate recovery in the global travel industry, but it will certainly help.

According to GlobalData, the number of international flights in 2020 is down 48.1% from 2019. GlobalData’s survey shows that 52% of respondents worldwide are somewhat or very concerned about international travel restrictions. The IATA tariff could help address these lingering concerns. The application confirms that the traveler has undergone the appropriate COVID-19 testing or vaccinations required to enter the country, and gives the traveler peace of mind that there will be no unexpected surprises, such as travel restrictions upon entry.

However, global implementation may be difficult because some governments insist on paperwork to prove immunization or a negative test, which means some countries must be convinced, Hollister said. Moreover, the introduction of applications may be difficult in developing countries, where the number of smartphone owners is not as high as in developed countries. This could mean that rollout is seen as something that reinforces inequality in the world, in terms of which countries can move freely and which cannot.

Meanwhile, Hollister says the introduction of Covid’s digital passport will benefit the global travel industry and increase the chances of a full recovery by 2021.

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