Passengers flying with both Etihad and Emirates will be among the first in the world to trial IATA’s Travel Pass app, which stores Covid test results and vaccine statuses. Jenny Southan reports
Both Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways have partnered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to allow passengers to start using the new IATA Travel Pass, a kind of digital “immunity passport”.
The IATA Travel Pass is intended to be a globally approved and recognised smartphone app that allows passengers to securely store and display personal Covid-19 test results and vaccines statuses in line with government requirements for travel.
The idea is that the IATA Travel Pass will give passengers control of their data and facilitate the sharing of their test results with multiple airlines and authorities around the world meaning less confusion at border control.
It will initially be offered to Etihad passengers on select flights from Abu Dhabi in the first quarter of this year. If successful, the pass will then be extended to other destinations on the Etihad network.
Mohammad Al Bulooki, chief operating officer for Etihad Aviation Group, says: “Covid-19 tests and vaccinations will be key to get the world flying again. Since August 1, 2020, Etihad [has been] the only airline requiring a pre-departure negative PCR test result for all passengers worldwide, and again on arrival in Abu Dhabi, giving our guests the added assurance of safety when they travel with us.
“A high priority for Etihad is for our guests to have an easy, secure and efficient way to identify and verify their information. Being one of the first airlines globally working with IATA as a pioneer partner on the IATA Travel Pass is a big step forward for Etihad’s guests and for the industry.”In the case of Emirates, before a full roll out, the airline will implement phase one in Dubai for the validation of Covid-19 PCR tests before departure. In this initial phase, expected to begin in April 2020, Emirates customers travelling from Dubai will be able to share their Covid-19 test status directly with the airline even before reaching the airport through the app, which will then auto-populate the details on the check-in system.
Adel Al Redha, Emirates chief operating officer, says: “While international travel remains as safe as ever, there are new protocols and travel requirements with the current global pandemic. We have worked with IATA on this innovative solution to simplify and digitally transmit the information that is required by countries and governments into our airline systems, in a secure and efficient manner.
“We are proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to pilot this initiative, which will provide an enhanced customer experience and conveniently facilitate our customers’ travel needs.”
Etihad says it has been “actively exploring the roll out of digital health certification” for its passengers, and this latest partnership with IATA, alongside similar programmes the airline has in development, shows the technology is “advancing quickly to make it a reality”.
With the aim of standardising passenger health statuses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, at an industry level, Etihad is actively campaigning for collaboration and a united regulatory response to restore confidence in flying.
Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice-president of airport, passenger, cargo and security, says: “The Etihad Airways partnership to launch the IATA Travel Pass is an important milestone on the road to meaningfully restarting international travel.
“Our aim is to give all governments the confidence to re-open borders to travellers based on verified vaccine and testing data. The initial stage of the Etihad launch will focus on all four elements of the IATA Travel Pass modules, one of the first airlines in the world to do so.”
The IATA Travel Pass app provides an integrated registry of country travel requirements. It will also include a registry of testing and eventually vaccination centres – making it more convenient for passengers to find testing centres and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
The platform will also enable authorized labs and test centres to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers. The global registry, managed by IATA, will manage and allow the secure flow of necessary information amongst all stakeholders and to provide a seamless passenger experience.