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The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) recently announced that they are in the final development phase of their COVID-19 ‘Travel Pass’, a tool which fundamentally serves as a COVID passport in the future of travel regulations and protocols.

The news comes as the arrival of vaccines draw closer and governments gravitate towards fully reopening their borders and reviving their aviation industries.

covid passport

A negative COVID-19 test is already a requirement currently in place for travel to over 100 countries. Recently, Qantas became the first airline to announce mandatory vaccines as a requisite to flying, and believe it will become an industry standard.

IATA’s ‘Travel Pass’ endeavor is believed to be the foundation of their One ID initiative, which was endorsed by resolution at IATA’s Annual General Meeting in 2019 and aims to eliminate travel documents through biometric recognition.

backpacker with mask airport

What is the ‘Travel Pass'?

The IATA Travel Pass is essentially a digital app intended to verify a traveler’s COVID-19 status. The app also aims to provide travelers with information pertaining to travel guidelines, as well as testing and/or vaccine locations and requirements. 

According to IATA, the ‘Travel Pass’ is designed to provide a solution which interconnects travelers, governments, airlines and laboratories to a single platform where data may be placed and observed.

traveler with mask waits in line airport

Conceptually, authorized labs and test centers will securely issue travelers with their certificate of test results and/or vaccine status on the app, which may then be viewed by airlines and border authorities at the traveler’s discretion.

The first IATA ‘Travel Pass’ cross-border pilot is scheduled to take place by end of year, with launch intended for the first quarter of 2021.

The app will be made available for both Android and iOS devices.

traveler at hotel with mask

Why IATA Feels It's Necessary

IATA believes the need for its ‘Travel Pass’ is necessitated as without a secure trace, there are challenges to obtaining accurate health information. Specifically, IATA highlights three key issues:

 Complexity and Variety:

As various nations and regions specify distinctive requirements, it is difficult for passengers, airlines and authorities to keep track. Subsequently, the ‘Travel Pass’ operates as a tool to eliminate this responsibility.

security at airport with mask

Information Gap:

Presently, travelers are flustered with keeping up with travel requirements. The app targets to clearly provide travel guidelines to travelers, as well as enable them to find testing centers and labs at their departure locations.

 Inefficiencies, Errors, Fraud:

Airline representatives and border officials need to verify traveler health information. The ‘Travel Pass’ intends to eliminate errors in this verification process, as well as any prospects of counterfeit certificates.

inspecting covid-19 passport

Other COVID Passport Are In Development

 In addition to IATA’s ‘Travel Pass’, similar models are being developed.

The Commons Project is working with the World Economic Forum on a similar tool, ‘CommonPass’, which is currently in the trial phase.

Abbott, a healthcare company which administer BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests for COVID-19, have released their NAVICA app which store test results that can be shared through a QR code.

passegner using touch screen wearing mask at airport

Ethical Dilemma

Permitted the vulnerability that governments and airlines are faced with, it is comprehensible as to why such stringent measures and controls are being arranged.

In objectivity, a recent study by The Lancet has been published to examine the scientific and ethical feasibility of immunity passports. The study underlines adverse effects which immunity passports would place on individual’s privacy and freedom of movement.

In September of this year, the German Ethics Council voted against COVID-19 immunity passports, primarily due to uncertainties regarding immunity and the risk of having a two-tier society.

On the contrary, the premise of immunity passports existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain countries require vaccination cards for yellow fever in order to enter.

As well, in the past, US courts have ruled in favor of employers requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

Ultimately, the reality of COVID-19 passports seems imminent, however, whether or not a vaccine is mandatory would be determined by the acceptance of the masses.

What is a certainty though, is that travelers have a lot to look forward to in 2021.

aiport check in traveler with mask

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories



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