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Emirates and Etihad to Start Trials of COVID-19 Vaccination and Test Digital Passports

Emirates and Etihad to Start Trials of COVID-19 Vaccination and Test Digital Passports

Emirates and Etihad Airways said on Tuesday that they would both start trials of a secure e-passport mobile app that stores and shares COVID-19 vaccination and pre-departure test data. The app has been developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as part of its efforts to convince governments to reopen borders and lift quarantine restrictions.

For the IATA Travel Pass app to work effectively the travel industry will need to convince governments and passengers, as well as more airlines to buy into the idea of vaccination passports. Singapore Airlines became the first airline to trial the Travel Pass last month but only for pre-departure testing data.

Etihad Airways said on Tuesday that it would trial the app for both pre-departure testing and vaccination certificates. Abu Dhabi is one of only a few countries that lets passengers skip quarantine from high-risk destinations if they can prove that they’ve had the required two-dose course of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

“COVID-19 tests and vaccinations will be key to get the world flying again,” commented Mohammad Al Bulooki, Etihad’s chief operating officer. A high priority for Etihad is for our guests to have an easy, secure and efficient way to identify and verify their information,” he continued.

“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.”

The Travel Pass app works by bringing together a registry of entry requirements, approved testing labs and vaccination centres, alongside a secure database that stores passenger certificates in a digital passport.

Passengers can use the app to first check what the entry conditions for a certain destination are and then search for an approved testing centre. The testing centre will then use a partner app to transmit details of the test certificate in a bid to cut down on fraudulent ‘fit to fly’ certificates that have proliferated in recent months.

At check-in, all airline agents need to do is scan a QR code generated by the app which will verify that the passenger has received a legitimate and recognised test for the destination they are flying to, or that they have a valid vaccination certificate.

While the IATA Travel Pass is currently a standalone app, both Singapore Airlines and Etihad hope to integrate it into their own airline mobile apps by mid-2021.

Emirates will initially only implement phase 1 of the digital passport for the validation of COVID-19 tests from April. Both Emirates and Etihad only plan to trial the app on select flights from their home hubs but could rollout the e-passport on other routes within weeks.

The chief executive of Qatar Airways said on Monday that he believed COVID-19 vaccination would likely be mandatory for international travel. “I think that this will be the new norm that everybody will have to produce a vaccination certificate to board an aeroplane – and not only to board an aeroplane, a lot of countries would require that you be vaccinated before you come to the countries,” Akbar Al Baker told BBC World News.

Emirates started a mass vaccination drive on frontline employees on Monday, while Singapore Airlines said it hoped to become the first fully vaccinated airline in the world as its own vaccine rollout continues at pace. Etihad is also a contender in the race to vaccinate its entire workforce.

Photo Credit: The Blowup via Unsplash

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