The global trade organization of airlines, International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) digital travel pass will go live in the Middle East in the coming weeks, as Europe and the US relaxed travel restrictions.
Countries around the world are racing to adopt digital certificates in order to unlock an expected revival in international tourism after the coronavirus pandemic crippled the aviation industry for more than a year.
A number of the Middle East and global carriers will launch the IATA digital travel pass for COVID-19 test results and vaccine certification, Willie Walsh, director-general of the global airline body said.
No one vaccine certification system has yet been universally accepted or recognized, but the IATA Travel Pass has so far received very positive feedback. About 60,000 people were registered to test the system, according to the IATA chief.
“We have received very positive feedback on the Iata travel pass. It will go live in the next couple of weeks with a number of carriers in the Middle East region,” Mr. Walsh said.
Emirates, Etihad Airways, Saudia, Qatar Airways and Gulf Air are among the regional airlines conducting trials of the IATA Travel Pass on select routes. The anticipated mobile app launch comes as the global airline body urges governments to allow the integration of digital COVID-19 certificates into passenger applications to relieve pressure on airports and immigration check-points as the number of travelers increases.
The IATA chief also criticized attempts by airports and suppliers in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region to recover losses incurred during the pandemic through “significant increases” in charges.
“This is very disappointing at a time when we’re hoping to see the industry restart,” Mr. Walsh said, noting that the hikes will discourage airlines from increasing or recovering the capacity that they had in the market. The IATA chief also called for sensible responses from industry suppliers including air traffic control and airport ground handling.
The airline association is pushing back against other planned fee increases elsewhere, Kamil Al-Awadhi, IATA regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, said.
In April, IATA hit out against “monopolistic” pricing by suppliers in other parts of the world, including London’s Heathrow airport. The global airline’s body also criticized the “significant mark-ups” that providers charge passengers on PCR tests, making the cost of travel prohibitive for large families, in particular.