Emirates, Etihad to roll out COVID-19 digital travel passport

Airlines enter partnership with IATA for pilot testing of mobile app

Emirates becomes one of the first airlines in the world to trial IATA Travel Pass, a digital platform for Covid-19 updates and test verification. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

Emirates becomes one of the first airlines in the world to trial IATA Travel Pass, a digital platform for Covid-19 updates and test verification. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

UAE-based Emirates and Etihad have announced plans to roll out the IATA travel pass, a mobile app that certifies passengers that they are COVID-19-free.

Both airlines said on Tuesday that they have entered a partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to begin the roll-out of the digital tool, which promises to help travellers manage their journeys easily and securely.

The travel pass essentially works as a “digital passport”. It stores traveller’s information, including COVID-19 test results, which they can share with airlines and other authorities during their travel, thereby making their trips more convenient – and paperless.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, travelling has never been easy for most people, given the numerous protocols and safety precautionary measures that countries have implemented.

Most airlines now require passengers to take COVID-19 tests, to lower the risk of infection aboard their flights.  In some jurisdictions, quarantines are mandatory and tests have to be taken prior and upon arrival. And, with vaccinations becoming widely available, there are discussions on whether or not travellers should provide proof of vaccination prior to flying internationally.

All of these can be overwhelming for some people, and to entice them to go back travelling again, IATA introduced last year the travel pass as a solution to keep people’s journeys more manageable.

“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,” said Nick Careen, IATA senior vice president for airport passenger, cargo and security.


“While international travel remains as safe as ever, there are new protocols and travel requirements with the current global pandemic. We have worked with IATA on this innovative solution to simplify and digitally transmit the information that is required by countries and governments into our airline systems, in a secure and efficient manner,” said Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ chief operating officer.

“We are proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to pilot this initiative, which will provide an enhanced customer experience and conveniently facilitate our customers’ travel needs,” he added.

Prior to a full roll-out, Emirates said it will implement in April phase 1 of the travel pass in Dubai for the validation of COVID-19 PCR tests prior to departure.

“Emirates customers travelling from Dubai will be able to share their COVID-19 test status directly with the airline even before reaching the airport through the app, which will then auto-populate the details on the check-in system,” the airline said.

“As borders re-open, IATA Travel Pass will be further enhanced with more capabilities to meet all governments testing or vaccination verification requirements and Emirates customers will be among the first to have these services,” Careen added.


At Etihad, the travel pass will initially be offered to customers on selected flights from Abu Dhabi in the first quarter of 2021. “If successful, the pass will be extended to other destinations on the Etihad network,” the airline said.

“The Etihad Airways partnership to launch the IATA travel pass is an important milestone on the road to meaningfully restarting international travel. Our aim is to give all governments the confidence to re-open borders to travellers based on verified vaccine and testing data. The initial stage of the Etihad launch will focus on all four elements of the IATA travel pass modules, one of the first airlines in the world to do so,” said Careen.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Mily Chakrabarty)


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