IATA Travel Pass, slated to launch in March, seeks to give governments the confidence to reopen borders


With APAC air travel at 5% of 2019 levels, the need for a “globally accepted framework” is urgent.

THE IATA Travel Pass, currently in pilot phase with Singapore Airlines, IAG Group, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, and slated to launch by March, will hopefully give governments and health authorities confidence to open their borders without quarantine requirement.

When asked if this would be the ‘magic bullet’ the industry wants, Vinoop Goel, Asia-Pacific regional director of airports and external relations, said the ‘magic bullet’ would be the tests. and vaccines.

The “magic bullet” for the industry will be tests and vaccines, explains Vinoop Goel.

“Tests and vaccines are essential. IATA Travel Pass will make it easy for authorities to check whether passengers have complied with their rules and requirements and in doing so will give them confidence to open borders without quarantine. “

IATA isn’t alone in trying to create a digital health passport to restart travel – the Commons Project and the World Economic Forum are working together on CommonPass – but with the association representing some 290 airlines accounting for 82%. global air traffic, she hopes he will take the lead in this Herculean task of restarting aviation.

In the Middle East, prior to full deployment, Emirates will implement Phase 1 in Dubai for validation of Covid-19 PCR tests prior to departure. In this initial phase, which is expected to start in April, Emirates customers traveling 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 automatically fill in the details. of the check. -in the system.

In Singapore, the Travel Pass is used by Singapore Airlines on its routes from Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. This is the initial scope, it will be extended to two-way channels and others, depending on bilateral agreements.

“The challenge is standardization”

And this is where the biggest challenge lies – the IATA Travel Pass aims to wrap a standardized ecosystem around travel, but “the challenge is standardization. There are many different players, different rules, different layers – there is no global standard but a lot of local requirements and the environment is changing rapidly. The IATA Travel Pass is a step towards establishing a globally accepted framework, ”said Goel.

But while waiting for the situation to play out, bricks can be put in place.

The IATA Travel Pass will consist of four modules.
Health Requirements Register
Allows passengers to find accurate travel information, tests and vaccines required for their trip, with IATA Timatic
Register of screening / vaccination centers
Allows passengers to find testing centers and laboratories at their point of departure that meet their destination’s testing / vaccination standards
Laboratory application
Allows laboratories and authorized test centers to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers
Contactless travel app
– Allows passengers to (1) create a “digital passport”, (2) verify that their test / vaccination complies with regulations and (3) share test or vaccination certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.
– Can be used by travelers to manage travel documents digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience.

Built on open source standards, it can be used as a stand-alone application or integrated into an airline application, and airlines can choose to use one or all four modules.

When asked if there were any lessons to be learned from the initial pilot, Goel said it was still in its early stages, but “early stakeholder engagement is essential as everything this is new, so it is good to involve them from the start ”.

The project is funded internally and Goel said “the intention is to keep costs as low as possible. It is intended to serve as a catalyst for the industry ”.

It is also aimed at distribution players such as GDS to see how the pass can be integrated into airline reservation or departure control systems.

“The problem today is that we recognize that governments need to protect their citizens. Some have done it in a calibrated way, depending on the routes, but there are a whole bunch of different rules and restrictions and it’s quite intimidating.

“We want to provide a framework and the ability for passengers and airlines to work from a database so travelers know what the requirements are and airlines and government agencies can verify their credentials. .

“Imagine the immigration officer now having to know all the rules and they change and on such short notice. We need an automated solution. IATA has already been in the space for immigration through Timatic and we can use it to fuel testing rules, as well as to prevent fraud. “

Resumption planned for 2024 on condition …

Goel disagreed with the idea that global travel associations have largely failed in their collective response to a global crisis such as Covid. At IATA, he said, the whole organization had to change its agenda and focus on “what do we need to ensure the survival of the industry.”

“In the initial outbreak, it was about calling on governments to support the industry and governments to provide financial support, otherwise we will see airlines fail. Now, this makes it easier to travel safely and helps the industry recover and reopen borders. “

Goel said this was particularly acute in Asia-Pacific, where cross-border air travel is 5% of what it used to be. “International travel by APAC has suffered the most,” he said.

IATA predicts that air travel will resume in 2024 assuming some borders open by June.

“This means real openness with little or no quarantine and the Travel Pass will give governments and passengers the assurance that the appropriate measures have been verified and validated.”

More information on the IATA Travel Pass in this video. Have a watch.

Featured image credit: Chalabala / Getty Images

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