“COVID passports” could revive international travel

Global airline lobby IATA is working on a mobile app that will help travelers demonstrate their coronavirus-free status, joining a push to introduce so-called Covid passports to speed up the revival of international travel.

The Travel Pass will display test results together with proof of inoculation, as well as listing national entry rules and details on the nearest labs, according to the International Air Transport Association. The app will also link to an electronic copy of the holder’s passport to prove their identity.

A test program will begin with British Airways parent IAG SA this year before arriving on Apple Inc. devices in the first quarter of 2021 and Android from April, IATA said. Travelers will be able to share their status with border authorities or present a QR code for scanning.

“We need to have global rules and standards” on measures like rapid testing and vaccination so there can be a “step forward” for the industry, Pieter Elbers, the head of the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, said in a Bloomberg TV interview Tuesday. The health advances “will definitely help to restore confidence in travel.”

Qantas Airways Ltd. said a Covid-19 vaccination will be a necessity for its international passengers when approved and distributed. Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce told Channel 9 in Australia he has discussed the idea with other airlines, and it’s likely to become a pre-boarding requirement around the world.

“It’s going to be a common theme across the board,” Joyce said.

While international travel remains in the doldrums amid a patchwork of local restrictions and lockdowns, countries are beginning to embrace testing to shorten or do away with quarantines for arriving passengers. The first vaccines are meanwhile expected to become available in coming months. That’s prompted a spate of technology-led moves to devise mechanisms to monitor travelers’ Covid credentials and combat false claims from people desperate to fly.

In the U.K., the industry also got a boost from the government’s decision to chop the 14-day quarantine for arrivals to England from high-risk countries by almost two-thirds if they take a coronavirus test. The easing of the restrictions starting Dec. 15 will come just in time for the Christmas holiday rush.

IATA’s head of passenger and security products, Alan Murray Hayden, said in a briefing that the group’s aim is to get people into the air again and it would be happy to work alongside other providers.

Now read: British Airways reopens domestic flights

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“COVID passports” could revive international travel