Global airline body claims it has the solution that will allow international travel to resume

The International Air Transport Association is looking to pilot its digital platform later this year for a launch in Q1 2021.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Screenshot/IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it has reached the final development stage of a standardised digital platform that it claims would enable international borders to reopen safely and allow overseas travel to resume.

According to the IATA, the IATA Travel Pass would incorporate four open-sourced and interoperable modules that could be combined to deliver an end-to-end solution.

These modules include a global registry that would enable airline passengers to find accurate information about travel, testing, and eventually vaccine requirements for their journey, as well as the location of testing and vaccination centres at their departure location, which meet the standards for vaccination requirements of their destination.

The pass would also feature a lab app to enable authorised labs and test centres to share and test vaccination certificates with passengers, and a contactless travel app so passengers are able to create a digital passport that would allow them to receive test and vaccination certificates to verify they can travel, which could then be shared with airlines and authorities.

The app could also be used by travellers to manage travel documentation digitally, the IATA added.  

The IATA believes it could be used as the universal platform to manage and verify necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, labs, and travellers.

"Today borders are double locked. 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 IATA Travel Pass," IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said.

"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."

The IATA also outlined that all technology used to develop the pass would be decentralised assuring that no central database holding passenger information would exist to maintain a high level of data privacy and security. Instead, passengers would have the sole right to share their data and delete it from the app at anytime.

The IATA will now work with the International Airlines Group (IAG) to trial the app to demonstrate that when combined with COVID-19 testing, it could replace the need for travellers to quarantine when travelling internationally. 

"Our main priority is to get people travelling again safely. In the immediate term that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements. And that will eventually develop into a vaccine program. The IATA Travel Pass is a solution for both," IATA airport, passenger, cargo and security senior VP Nick Careen said.

The first cross-border pilot is scheduled later this year and slated to launch in Q1 2021.

According to the Australian government's current COVID-19 vaccination policy, re-entry into Australia may require proof of vaccination.

"While the Australian government strongly supports immunisation and will run a strong campaign to encourage vaccination, it is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate. There may however, be circumstances where the Australian government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination," the policy states.

Australia's national airline Qantas does not currently expect to resume regular flight operations until some time in 2021. This aligns with the remarks that Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham made on Sunday suggesting that overseas travel could be on the cards next year.

"It's not impossible ... I think the first half may be challenging," he said during an interview with Sky News.

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