Nearly a year since commercial airlines grounded their flights due to the global pandemic, the industry is making significant strides to safely bring passengers back to the airports and onto aircraft. While it has been a difficult year, there have been signs that recovery doesn’t just mean a return to how things were, but the creation of a much healthier and more efficient aviation ecosystem. From embracing contactless passenger journeys, to utilizing advanced technology to mitigate health risks, the industry has met the challenges of the last year in stride. Now there is another practical step towards resuming air travel: the digital health passport.

President Biden’s executive order to “assess the feasibility” of a health passport brings the U.S. in line with other nations and international airlines calling for some form of vaccine ID. The concept is to create a document, digital or otherwise, that passengers can display to prove that they have been tested for COVID-19, with the potential for vaccine documentation discussed in the future.

At the forefront of this effort is the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has created a framework to meet this demand. IATA’s Travel Pass Initiative would allow passengers to get information on testing and provide the documentation to prove their test results before traveling.

The Travel Pass will incorporate four interoperable and open-sourced modules that combine to form a single end-to-end solution:

Learn About the Contactless Passenger Journey
  1. A Registry of Health Requirements

This enables passengers to find accurate information on travel, testing, and vaccine requirements for their journey. In addition, the Travel Pass will inform passengers about the type of tests required at their destination as well as any quarantine requirements prior to or following their flight.

  • Registry of Testing/Vaccination Centers

This ensures passengers can find testing centers and labs at their departure location that meet the standards for testing/vaccination requirements of their destination.

  • Lab App

This allows authorized labs and test centers to securely send and test results of vaccination certificates to passengers.

  • Contactless Travel App

This empowers passengers to create a digital passport and verify their test/vaccination meets the regulations. The app will permit passengers to share test results and potentially vaccinations with authorities during travel. This can be used by travelers to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience.

The hope is that using a standardized global solution to “validate and authenticate” all country regulations regarding COVID-19 passenger travel requirements will be the next step on the road to recovery.

There has been considerable interest in IATA’s digital health passport, with several major international carriers signing up to trial the application including Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and British Airways. The recent U.S. move to embrace a health passport along with the E.U. means that two of the largest aviation markets in the world view this step as both necessary and needed.

In the end, it will take the combined efforts of industry, government, and passengers to overcome the trials of the time. Health passports represent one of the best ways for all three to work together on the road to recovery.

You can read more about the IATA Travel Pass Initiative here.

Kevin Tierney

About Kevin Tierney

Kevin is an Editor for Connected Aviation Today and contributes content and helps drive the editorial strategy for the site. Kevin covers a wide range of topics at the intersection of public sector technology and federal government modernization initiatives. Kevin brings to the team his background in US Government operations and various technology channels specifically cloud based information sharing services and monitoring platforms.