International Air Transport Association (IATA) explores the options of digital passes and health certificate

 Tuesday, January 12, 2021 


Amidst COVID-19, several stakeholders of the travel and tourism industry are exploring the option of digital passes and health certificates which include destinations, airlines and associations like International Air Transport Association (IATA). These digital passes and certificates intend to lower the risk of COVID-19 infection by providing accurate health status (in terms of COVID-19) details of passengers, says GlobalData, a leading research and consulting company.

Since May 2020, Singapore has been testing ICC AOKpass, which is a health certificate that can be shown and verified digitally. It is backed by International SOS (a health and security services company headquartered in Singapore), International Chamber of Commerce and AOKpass Pte. Ltd. Now, passengers travelling to Singapore can use the ICC AOKpass mobile app to show their COVID-19 test results. In line with this, all travellers from Indonesia and Malaysia can make use of the facility that will be made available to other international travellers in a phased manner.

AOKpass is also being used on flights between Abu Dhabi and Karachi/ Islamabad as well as Rome and New York City/Atlanta. Another similar digital pass, CommonPass has been tested on flights between New York and London. IATA is also working on a ‘Travel Pass’.

Animesh Kumar, Director of Travel & Tourism and Automotive Consulting at GlobalData, comments: ‘‘Digital passes help passengers prove that they adhere to the health entry requirements of their destination and enhance the safety of international travellers. Since these can be stored in and used through a mobile application, they are easy to use. The app securely stores and authenticates the negative COVID-19 PCR test results. The passes can also facilitate faster clearances if airports have dedicated immigration counters, similar to Changi Airport in Singapore.”

There is an urgent need for a framework that brings the passengers, testing labs, local authorities, airlines and immigration authorities on a common platform and such digital passes/certificates can facilitate that. The use of QR codes, blockchain and decentralized data ensures data accuracy as well as privacy. Once such passes are made available on a large scale, it would eliminate the need and use of paper certificates, which slow down the process and can also open the doors for potential test result frauds.

Kumar concludes: “Digital health passes would help in boosting the consumers’ confidence as they would enhance efficiency, safety, security as well as data privacy and reduce the risks of in-flight infections. There is also a potential for expanding the use of such digital passes for domestic travel as well as entry in concerts and stadiums”.

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