Virgin Atlantic is running two digital health pass trials on UK routes to Barbados and the US, to help streamline travel in the age of Covid. Olivia Palamountain reports

Virgin Atlantic is joining Etihad and Emirates in trialling the IATA Travel Pass initiative, available from April 16 on Virgin Atlantic’s UK-Barbados services.

At present, IATA represents some 290 airlines comprising 82 per cent of global air traffic; the governing body’s Travel Pass offers a global interoperable solution based on open-source standards, which means it can be used as a stand-alone solution or integrated into airlines’ own apps to provide passengers with a seamless travel experience.

Customers travelling on flights VS131 from London Heathrow to Barbados will be invited to participate in the trial by downloading the free IATA Travel Pass on their smartphone.

Using the app they can create a digital ID comprising their profile photo and passport information and upload their Covid-19 credentials, selecting relevant flight information. Future versions of the app will incorporate vaccine records also.

The one-month trial has been designed in close collaboration with the Government of Barbados, which will accept the pass at its border.

Lisa Cummins, Barbados’s minister of tourism and international transport, says: “Safe travel is integral to Barbados’s full return to tourism, and we welcome this progressive step which complements our already implemented public health protocols and programmes.

“Barbados travel protocols have included a negative Covid-19 test since last year, and we are currently leading the Caribbean in an aggressive inoculation programme which has seen nearly 30 per cent of our adult population vaccinated to date.

“The IATA Travel Pass lends an extra element of safety to both our visitors and Barbadians, giving them the confidence that we are engaging in and promoting travel that protects us all. As we look ahead to the next few months, our intention is to create a new-look tourism industry that holistically reflects the new public health imperatives.”

Also being tested by Virgin Atlantic is an innovative Covid-19 test verification tool using artificial intelligence from US company Trust Assure, in effect on Heathrow-US services (currently standing at five routes).

The Trust Assure platform features a global directory of 15,000 plus verified Covid-19 test sites in over 75 countries. It provides users with access to partners, products, and protocols designed to meet the destination requirements necessary for travel worldwide.

The technology has already proven extremely effective in development and trials by Virgin Atlantic’s joint venture partner, Delta Air Lines. Once confirmed, customers receive a QR code with a green verification, meaning they can proceed quickly through check-in.

Rapid, affordable testing and effective digital proof of Covid-19 credentials, including vaccinations, must be part of HMG’s Global Travel Taskforce’s risk-based approach to reopen skies as soon as possible.

It is hoped that secure digital health technology will support this endeavour with a smooth and streamlined experience, enabling customers’ to navigating global travel requirements from the palm of their hands.

Trial Pass appDigital health passes are currently big business. Connected mobile solutions that enable customers to verify that they meet the health criteria needed to travel between certain countries, with evidence of a negative Covid-19 test are proving essential to meet ever-changing, route-specific travel restrictions.

While there are alternative options on the market such as CommonPass, which has been tested on flights between London and New York, AOKpass, in use between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan, V-Health Passport and BA’s Verifly app, the IATA Travel Pass is proving a popular choice for major carriers.

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