MIAMI – The International Air transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass is a reality, successfully trialed on a Singapore Airlines (SG) flight to London where a group of passengers used the new travel credential system to enter the UK.

The trial is the beginning action on the establishment of a digital document as valid proof of either a negative COVID-19 test or successful vaccination thus doing away with the burden of paper documents both at airline and border control.

According to the IATA press release, digital health proofing must be accepted as a valid non-paper document when clearing formalities but also at government levels and cited the United kingdom as being one step ahead of others on setting the way to normal international travel.

Image: IATA

IATA Pleads for an Unified Standard

IATA is also pleading for a unified standard system to document tests or vaccinations and avoid confusion and inconvenience for travelers but also for border control authorities’ acceptance.

A recent poll has shown that 89% of travelers agreed on the necessity of a new system and 80% declared themselves ready to accept a digital type of credentials to ensure unhindered travel. ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) is also working with member states to achieve a common approach to this issue.

Image: IATA

Remarks from the IATA Director General

On the subject, IATA Director General, Alexandre de Juniac, during the IATA Media Briefing of March 17 made one of his last remarks as head of the aviation authority body. de Juniac said, “We have very good news today with the first traveler using the IATA Travel Pass arriving in London from Singapore later this afternoon.”

The Director added that “Efficiently and securely handling health credentials—vaccine and testing certificates—will be essential to an efficient re-start. We believe that the IATA Travel Pass will play a major role in that. And this trial implementation is a major milestone on the way to the app released in April.”

Image: IATA

Travel Pass and Vaccine Passport Concerns

As governments and carriers scramble to find a solution in lieu of population-wide vaccinations, Vaccine Passport proposals abound as airlines such as Qatar Airways (QR), Air Serbia (JU), and Rwandair (WB) are starting to trial IATA’s Travel Pass domestically. However, there are caveats to a vaccine passport rollout.

According to a report by The Economist, such a passport was considered “premature” to use for border crossings, according to the WHO study. Moreover, the Ada Lovelace Institute, a think tank that tracks vaccine passport initiatives around the world, concluded on February 17 that these are currently “not actually justified.”

In addition, critics argue that a vaccine passport will infringe on civil liberties, ie data privacy and the protection of travelers’ personal information, and restrict those who have refused a vaccine. The report also states that public-health experts say it is too early to know whether the idea is medically sound.

Image: IATA

Featured image: Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 9V-SMN – Photo : Milan Witham/Airways