This Digital Health Pass Will Be Ready for Widespread Airline Use as Early as March

The IATA expects most airlines to use Travel Pass by March

Young Asian woman traveller holding passport and suitcase walking in the international airport hall
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As we've all slowly begun to think about traveling in a vaccinated world, we've also had to contend with the challenges of tracking test results and vaccinations before—and while—we hit the road. Thanks to the International Air Transport Association's Travel Pass app, that might be easier than we think.

The app, which works like an electronic wallet where travelers can upload and store digital health certifications and records for COVID-19 test results and inoculations, has been trialed in partnership with Singapore Airlines, which used it on routes to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. But when can we all expect to have it in our wallets? According to the IATA, sooner than you might think.

In a recent digital webinar, Alan Murray Hayden, IATA’s head of airport, passenger, and security solutions, said they expect most of the world’s major airlines to be using the app by March. This timeline was also echoed by IATA’s director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac, who confirmed during the trade organization’s first press briefing of the year on Jan. 12 that the app is “still on track for a full rollout of the app during the first quarter of this year.” 

During the same speech, de Juniac reiterated that IATA still believes airlines will reach a cash profit by the end of the year, but it still looks pretty “bleak” in the short-term. He said that countries and governments making decisions to shut down borders or adding COVID-19 testing measures without removing quarantine requirements are adding to the shutdown of travel. “This approach tells us that these governments are not interested in managing a balanced approach to the risks of COVID-19," he said. “They appear to be aiming for a zero-COVID world. This is an impossible task that comes with severe consequences—the full extent of which it would be impossible to calculate.”

De Juniac added that science tells us travelers will not be large contributors to community spread as long as there is effective testing and suggested a more balanced approach that values testing over quarantines is the only way through.

IATA’s Travel Pass will enable travelers to upload and store COVID-19 test results and vaccine records—much like an easy digital version of yellow paper vaccination cards but a lot harder to falsify.

“Unlike paper, we also get the opportunity to inspect digital watermarks. That means organizations can look at those digital watermarks and say, Well, who gave this to you?, Did they give it to you and only you?, and, lastly, Has it been tampered with?" said Jamie Smith, senior director of business development at Evernym, a software company specializing in self-sovereign identity products. “And they can do those checks nearly instantly. That becomes really, really powerful.”

Before COVID-19 took over our lives, Evernym and IATA were already involved in a partnership to create a contactless identity app. Hayden credits this and other examples of existing technology with helping to hit the fast-forward button on the development of the Travel Pass mobile app—hopefully landing it in our hands right on time this spring. 

To learn more about the IATA and Evernym Travel Pass Initiative, check out the IATA website.

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