UAE: What's a COVID-19 travel pass and how does it work?

In the UAE, both Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways have enrolled for these trials

Image used for illustrative purpose.

Image used for illustrative purpose.

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As many as 27 airlines around the world are running — or planning to run — trials of IATA Travel Pass, according to the information available on the International Air Travel Association's (IATA) website.

The IATA Travel Pass is a mobile application, which will have an integrated registry of travel requirements to help passengers find accurate information and entry requirements for all destinations, regardless of their itinerary, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

IATA is a global coalition of airlines to ensure safety and security of air services.

In the UAE, both Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways have enrolled for these trials. Dubai national carrier Emirates ran the first trial on its flight to Barcelona on April 15.

“The ability to process passengers’ relevant Covid-19 data for travel digitally will be the way forward. We are pleased to have been pioneers and partners with IATA in trying out this initiative in real time and soon will be launching other initiatives to further enhance our customers' experience,” Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer (COO) had said after the flight.

Emirates Airlines is running the trial on select flights from Dubai to Barcelona and from Heathrow, London, to Dubai. It will soon expand the list to include other routes.

Why is there a need for a travel pass?

At present, there is a fragmented and diverse set of Covid-19 testing requirements for entry and exit into countries. There is also a range of tests available and different governments have different requirements.

Some of these tests include PCR, LAMP, antigen and spectroscopic. This has created a challenging and complex environment for immigration authorities, passengers, and airlines to navigate.

A standardised global travel pass can eliminate confusion, provide accurate information on the documents needed, and allow passengers to upload them on a single app that can be accessed by different airlines and government authorities.

Such a system, when accepted globally, will eliminate health check inefficiencies, errors and fraud.

How does an IATA Travel Pass work?

IATA Travel Pass provides a standardised solution for all governments and airlines to validate and authenticate various country regulations regarding Covid-19 passenger travel requirements.

It incorporates four open-sourced and interoperable modules:

> Enable passengers to find information on travel, testing and vaccine requirements for air travel

> Find testing centres and laboratories at their departure and/or arrival location that can conduct Covid-19 tests in accordance with the type of test required for their journey

> Enable authorised labs and test centres to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers

> Enable passengers to create a ‘digital passport’; verify their test/vaccination meets the regulations; and share test or vaccination certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.

The travel pass will also allow passengers to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience.

Airlines running trials with IATA Travel Pass

> Emirates airlines

> Singapore Airlines

> Qatar Airways

> Etihad Airways

> IAG (International Airlines Group)

> Malaysia Airlines

> Cope Airlines

> RwandAir

> Air New Zealand

> Qantas

> AirBaltic

> Gulf Air


> AirSerbia

> Thai Airways

> Thai Smile

> Korean Air

> Neos

> Virgin Atlantic

> Ethiopian Airlines

> Vietjet Air

> Hong Kong Airlines

> Japan Airlines

> Iberia

> Saudia

> Swiss

> El Al


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