Air New Zealand is the latest airline to join the ranks of those trialling the International Air Transport Association’s new digital ‘travel pass’ health passport.
Passengers on select Air New Zealand passengers will now have to present digital records of their COVID vaccination status and recent test results.
The NZ flag carrier joins the likes of Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Etihad in signing up to the IATA initiative, and will operate a three-week trial of the pass on its Auckland-Sydney route in April.
Air New Zealand added that it is “in conversation with government agencies” about the options for validating testing and vaccination.
The IATA’s digital pass contains vital information on passenger’s past COVID-related medical history, including test results and vaccination status, which can be shown to relevant authorities while travelling.
The application can also provide passengers with helpful information on regulatory entry requirements for different countries, as well as provide locations for testing facilities.
Many airlines and governments around the world have already implemented policies and requirements for pre-flight negative COVID test results, with many intending to require proof of vaccination against the virus in the near future prior to boarding flights or entering countries.
Apps and vaccine passports have been a controversial topic in aviation for the past year, but the airline has insisted that “customer privacy is at the heart” of the app’s design, and health information would not be stored centrally.
“Customers will be able to create a digital health wallet linked to their e-passport,” said Air New Zealand in a statement. “Once travellers have been tested and/or vaccinated, labs will securely send data to the individual’s app. It then checks requirements for travel against the data, and customers who meet those travel requirements will be given the green tick to travel.”
IATA’s senior vice president, Nick Careen, said, “Air New Zealand’s trial of IATA Travel Pass will help give governments the confidence to reopen borders and passengers the confidence to travel.
“The app has been developed with the highest levels of data privacy and security, so passengers always remain in control of their COVID-19 health information. And governments can be confident that passengers who are ‘OK to Travel’ are in full compliance of COVID-19 travel requirements.”
In November 2020, World of Aviation reported how the IATA finalised the technology at the end of last year with plans to roll it out in the first half of 2021.
“Our main priority is to get people travelling again safely,” Careen said then. “That means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements.”
In October 2020, Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas noted that programs such as these are likely to be a part of the future of flying.
“I can see that wellness certification will become a necessary function of how the whole of the world comes back to flying,” Douglas said at the Global Aerospace Summit. “We’ll adapt and we’ll adopt and therefore, wellness certification will probably be no (different) to how visas used to be issued to give safe passage.”
Additional reporting by Adam Thorn.