- International Air Transport Association has developed a mobile application called IATA Travel Pass for passengers.
- The Travel Pass is a “digital passport” that will enable airlines to track passengers’ COVID-19 testing and vaccination status before boarding planes.
- North American airlines have not made a public comment on whether COVID-19 vaccination will be required on their airlines.
On Nov. 23, 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it is in the final development phase of creating a “digital passport” known as The IATA Travel Pass mobile application that will display SARS-CoV-2 test results and proof of COVID-19 vaccination, as well as listing national entry rules and details of the nearest testing laboratories in different countries.1
IATA’s announcement came a few days after three COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/Oxford University claimed high 90-95 percent vaccine efficacy rates.2
What is the IATA Travel Pass?
The IATA Travel Pass will manage and verify the flow of COVID-19 testing and vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories and travelers. IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said:
Today borders are double locked. Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share, and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of IATA Travel Pass. We are bringing this to market in the coming months to also meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation.3
According to IATA’s website, the mobile application will enable passengers to:
- create a ‘digital passport’
- receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their travel itinerary
- share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel.4
COVID-19 Vaccine Travel Pass Program to Launch in Early 2021
According to Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president of airport, passenger, cargo and security, the airline industry seeks to recover economically from the pandemic, and executives believe that the COVID-19 digital passport would encourage people to travel again.5
While the vaccine delivery logistics are being worked on, Careen said, “In the immediate term, that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements.” He adds that, “And that will eventually develop into a vaccine program.”6
The first cross-border IATA Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year and the launch is scheduled for the first quarter in 2021.7
IATA Promoting Rapid Testing Technology
IATA has been advocating for the use of widespread systematic COVID-19 testing as a tool for replacing quarantines implemented by many countries. According to the head of policy analysis at IATA, James Wiltshire, “It’s really important governments don’t wait for vaccines and don’t take their foot off the pedal. We know there are governments thinking about doing testing regimes to replace quarantines and we do encourage them to do those plans.”8
Wiltshire said that IATA believes that governments should not wait for a vaccine to become available before re-opening their borders because it may take a considerable amount of time before the vaccine becomes available to the entire population.9
Quantas Airlines Plans to Implement COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements
Australian airline Qantas is making plans to require passengers to get a COVID-19 vaccine prior to traveling internationally. Other airlines could also implement similar policies.10
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in reference to the COVID-19 vaccine, “Whether you’ll need that domestically, we’ll have to see what happens with COVID-19 and the market, but certainly for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity.” He added, “I’m talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe and I think it’s going to be a common theme across the board.”11
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major North American airlines stated it is “committed to restoring service in a manner that prioritizes safety and wellbeing of our passengers and employees,” but did not comment on a potential vaccine requirement.12
1 Ryan C, Patel T. Covid Passports Seen as Key to Resuming International Travel. Bloomberg Nov. 24, 2020.
2 Falconer R. Airlines push for “COVID-free passports” as vaccine race heats up. Axios Nov. 24, 2020.
3 IATA. IATA Travel Pass set to help international passengers. Airlines Nov. 23, 2020.
5 See Footnote 2.
7 See Footnote 3.
8 Dunn G. IATA urges governments not to wait for vaccine to open markets. Flight Global Nov. 23, 2020.
10 Brito C. Qantas CEO says airline will require passengers traveling internationally to get COVID-19 vaccine. CBS News Nov. 24, 2020.