Travel pass

Could the Covid app become a digital pass?

Holidaymakers could be offered “within a few weeks” a telephone application which would allow them to prove that they have tested negative for Covid or that they have been vaccinated.

The International Air Transport Association, which is in talks with the UK government, yesterday revealed plans to roll out its digital Travel Pass next month.

The development is a boost for millions of Britons hoping to vacation abroad this summer after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap for reopening overseas travel on Monday.

Mr Johnson has asked a new task force to consider how to safely resume holidays, with ‘vaccine passports’ seen as a potential long-term measure. Popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and the Canary Islands have already shown interest in the idea.

The IATA app will be able to check if a passenger has had the Covid-19 tests or vaccines required to enter a country.

Holidaymakers could be offered “within a few weeks” a telephone application which would allow them to prove that they have tested negative for Covid or that they have been vaccinated (example of a travel passport telephone application)

The development is a boost for millions of Britons hoping for a holiday abroad this summer after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap for reopening overseas travel on Monday (stock photo)

The development is a boost for millions of Britons hoping for a holiday abroad this summer after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap for reopening overseas travel on Monday (stock photo)

It would also prove that they were administered by a licensed authority and would store the information on individual phones rather than in a centralized database to better protect privacy.

Vinoop Goel, Regional Director of Airports and External Relations at IATA, said: “The key issue is one of trust. Passengers should be confident that the tests they have taken are accurate and will allow them to enter the country.

“And then governments need to be confident that the tests passengers claim to have are accurate and on their own terms.”

He added: “The plan is to go live in March, so basically we expect to have a fully functional working system within the next few weeks.”

IATA has pointed out that the app will not be available next month as a “vaccination passport”, partly because Britain does not currently issue proof of vaccination in digital format.

But it is understood to be one of the issues being worked on by the new Travel Task Force led by the Department for Transport – raising the prospect of UK holidaymakers using such an app this summer.

Mr Johnson has asked a new task force to consider how to safely resume holidays, with 'vaccine passports' seen as a potential long-term measure.  Popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and the Canary Islands have already expressed interest in the idea (file photo from Taverna Nikos, in Mykonos, Greece)

Mr Johnson has asked a new task force to consider how to safely resume holidays, with ‘vaccine passports’ seen as a potential long-term measure. Popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and the Canary Islands have already expressed interest in the idea (file photo from Taverna Nikos, in Mykonos, Greece)

The UK’s vaccine credentials, which are currently provided in paper form, should be ‘digitised’, IATA said.

One way to do this is for health authorities to start issuing QR codes that could be scanned and uploaded into apps as proof that the two doses of vaccine were administered, along with information about where it was. administered, what vaccine was received and who it was administered by.

The industry sees digital passes as an essential part of reopening air travel, as many countries still have strict restrictions or quarantines, which could be lifted for those who can prove they have been vaccinated.

Singapore Airlines was the first airline to begin trials of the IATA Travel Pass in December. Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand are among others conducting trials.

Other airlines are also testing different apps that could end up being used for “vaccine passports”.

British Airways is trialling one called VeriFLY and extended the trial last week to cover all inbound flights to the UK, in addition to all outbound flights to the US. It is currently only used to verify a negative Covid test result.

Meanwhile, travel agencies reported a booking bonanza yesterday after Mr Johnson said there was ‘every chance’ overseas trips could take place this summer.

Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, has increased its bookings sixfold. Greece, Spain and Turkey were the most popular destinations, with bookings to these countries up 500%. It was the busiest day for the company in over a month.

Rival package travel giant Jet2.com said bookings were up 600%, with Spain, Greece and Cyprus also among the most booked destinations.

Steve Heapy, managing director of Jet2.com, said: ‘We’ve seen huge pent-up demand from UK holidaymakers for some time, with people wanting nothing more than to get away in the sun and enjoy their holiday well. deserved. The government’s announcement is the news they have been waiting for.


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