The UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad will be among the first airlines in the world to use the International Air Transport Association (IATA) “Travel Pass” app, which allows passengers to manage their Covid-19 vaccination and testing statuses.
Trials of the IATA “Travel Pass” are to begin on these airlines in the first half of this year.
Meanwhile the proposal by Greece Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis to create a kind of vaccine passport has received the formal support of IATA. It is to be considered formally by the EU heads of state to meet on Thursday.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the European Commission that it was “urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all Member States.”
The “Travel Pass” app is intended to enable contactless travel through airports and to smooth the process of sharing Covid-19 test and vaccination statuses with airlines and national authorities.
From April, Emirates will implement phase one of the travel pass, using it to validate Covid-19 PCR tests before departure from Dubai. This will enable passengers to share their test results with the airline even before reaching the airport.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad will offer the travel pass to passengers on select flights from its hub in the first quarter, allowing guests to create a digital passport, receive Covid-19 test results, and verify they are eligible to undertake their journey.
“This is the first step in making international travel during the pandemic as convenient as possible giving people the confidence that they are meeting all Covid-19 entry requirements by governments,” states Nick Careen, IATA’s senior-vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security.
Meanwhile, IATA has strongly supported the Mitsotakis vaccine passport proposals.
In an open letter to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and copied to key policy-makers across the EU, IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac called on EU States to coordinate a policy that would see Europe safely gain the economic and social benefits of renewed freedom of movement, beginning with those who are vaccinated.
”Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ initiative should be urgently adopted by the Commission and all member states. Vaccination is a fundamental key to safely reopening borders and stimulating economic recovery. A pan-European mutually recognized vaccination certificate would be an important step towards giving governments the confidence to safely open their borders, and passengers the confidence to fly without the barrier of quarantine,” said de Juniac in a statement published on the IATA website.
The Greek proposal is for a harmonised vaccination certificate that could contribute “to the re-establishment of mobility on a global scale, which is the foundation for re-establishing economic activity to pre-crisis levels.” The requirement for a harmonised safe aviation restart is more urgent than ever in the face of renewed lockdowns and travel restrictions across the world.
As the virus comes eventually under control, testing capacities improve and the vaccinated population grows, de Juniac stressed the need for governments to prepare for re-establishing the freedom of movement with well-coordinated planning. That planning should use the most effective combination of vaccination and testing capabilities.
“We are in very dark days of this pandemic. But the tough measures taken combined with accelerating vaccination programs must give us hope that we can safely re-establish the freedom of movement. That will save jobs, ease mental anguish, re-connect families and revive the economy. To do this safely and efficiently, planning is key. Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s proposal for vaccine certificates will be a key enabler. Progress on eliminating or reducing quarantines can be made with testing protocols. But what we need now is for governments to start working together much more effectively. Unilateral government actions were able to quickly dismantle global connectivity. Re-building will need coordination,” said de Juniac.