IATA develops apps for safe travel amid COVID-19

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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A set of mobile apps are being developed by the global aviation body IATA (International Air Transport Association) to help passengers handle COVID-19 travel restrictions and share test and vaccine certificates securely with airlines and governments, it said.

IATA, which represents many of the major airlines in the world, aims to pilot the Travel Pass platform by the end of the year and launch it in the first half of next year for Android and Apple iOS phones.

Airlines have been encouraging governments, with some success, to replace traffic-stifling quarantine requirements with systematic COVID-19 testing.

While international travel remains low due to local restrictions and lockdowns, countries are beginning to embrace testing to shorten or do away with quarantines for arriving passengers. The first vaccines are meanwhile expected to become available in coming months. That’s prompted a number of technology-led moves to devise mechanisms to monitor travelers’ COVID-19 credentials and combat false claims from people desperate to fly.

“Our main priority is to get people travelling again safely,” IATA security chief Nick Careen said. “That means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements.”

Travel Pass

Travel Pass will be free to travelers and governments, with airlines paying a small fee per passenger to use the service. It will be based on the existing IATA Timatic system long used to verify documents. Passenger health and other data are not centrally stored but blockchain-authenticated, leaving customers in charge of what they share, IATA said.

A test program will begin with British Airways parent IAG this year before arriving on Apple devices in the first quarter and on Android in April next year, IATA said. Travelers will be able to share their status with border authorities or present a QR code for scanning.

Contactless Travel

A new “Contactless Travel” app would combine passport details with certificates of testing and vaccination obtained from participating laboratories. It will also draw on global health standards registries and centers for testing and vaccination.

The framework is focused on open source standards to enable interoperability with existing systems, including its member airlines’ own customer apps, IATA said.