- The International Air Transport Association is in the final development phase of a digital health pass for travellers.
- The IATA Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information.
- According to IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac, testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced on Monday that it is in the final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass, a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders.
The IATA Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories and travellers. IATA represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic.
According to IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac, testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveller identities in compliance with border control requirements.
"That's the job of the IATA Travel Pass. We are bringing this to market in the coming months to also meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation," said De Juniac during an information webinar.
The IATA Travel Pass incorporates a global registry of health requirements to enable passengers to find accurate information on travel, testing and eventually vaccine requirements for their journey. It will also have a global registry of testing or vaccination centres which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
A Lab App will enable authorised laboratories and test centres to securely share test and vaccination certificates with passengers and a Contactless Travel App will, among other things, enable passengers to create a "digital passport" and receive test and vaccination certificates.
IATA and its partner in the project, the International Airlines Group (IAG), will undertake a trial to demonstrate that the IATA Travel Pass, combined with Covid-19 testing, can reopen international travel and replace quarantine.
James Wiltshire, assistant director external affairs, said during the webinar that risk is relative and World Health Organisation is clear that there is no "zero way" out of the Covid-19 pandemic, at least in the short and medium term. That is why there needs to be a balance between the risk versus the benefits of opening borders.
"So, if we can reduce the residual risk of an arriving passenger being infected, then there is a strong case that greater restrictions should not be placed on those passengers than restrictions on passengers who arrive on domestic flights,” suggested Wiltshire.
IATA research shows that there was an estimated reduction of 55% in jobs supported in air transport industry due to the pandemic. That is why IATA emphasises the importance from an economic point of view to reopen borders in a risk managed way.
"We see a real role for rapid testing, close to the time of travel, to be used in a travel context. Continuous monitoring and improving remains key," he said.
"We encourage governments to base their policy making on real world data which is now available and reflects what is now happening on the ground, and not to still only look at modelling studies which were sometimes done already quite early in the pandemic and them leading to certain assumptions."
According to Dr David Powell, IATA's medical advisor, if travellers are going from an area with a low prevalence of Covid-19 infections to one with a high prevalence, there really is no reason for quarantine as these passengers present a lower risk than the country they are travelling to. Also, some research shows that with careful testing before and after a journey, quarantine can be reduced to seven days.
For IATA airport expert Alan Hayden the key issue is that governments need to open borders again without requiring quarantine, but at same time be ensured that their own citizens are not being put at risk.
"The key here is testing, but it is not only about testing, but also about building confidence in the system used among governments and passengers that the test results can be verified," he said during the webinar.