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As the aviation industry maintains a path toward recovery and countries gradually lift border restrictions, airlines are beginning to utilize new technologies to create a seamless travel experience. Specifically, airlines are exploring methods to implement vaccine passports to facilitate international flying for travelers.
Qatar Airways, an airline based in Doha’s Hamad International Airport, recently announced it would begin using the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass mobile app. The IATA created the Travel Pass to “re-open borders without quarantine” as “governments need to be confident that they are effectively mitigating the risk of importing COVID-19”. The Travel Pass is available on the Apple Store and Google Play and can be utilized when flying on an airline that is trialing this app.
According to the IATA, the Travel Pass app allows for governments to verify the tests or vaccinations along with traveler identification. Additionally, the IATA Travel Pass allows for airlines to supply passengers with the necessary requirements to travel and verify that a passenger meets the requirements. The Travel Pass records a traveler’s COVID-19 vaccination record or test, which diminishes the need for physical certificates and establishes a more secure method to carry these records.
In Qatar Airways’s press release, Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, said: “Qatar Airways and the Qatari Government are showing leadership by becoming the first to trial the verification of passengers’ vaccine credentials through IATA Travel Pass. Certificates of COVID-19 vaccination or testing status will be key to restoring people’s freedom to travel.”
Starting July 2021, Qatar Airways will initially trial the IATA’s Travel Pass with crew flying from major cities—such as Kuwait, London, Los Angeles and Sydney—to Doha. Qatar Airways’s crew will upload their COVID-19 vaccination record along with their COVID-19 test results in order to verify if they are eligible to fly. Upon arriving in Doha, the crew will securely share their vaccination record and proceed through immigration.
“Despite the significant challenges the pandemic has caused international aviation, our industry has continued to be a leader in adopting new technologies and innovations to ensure a safe, secure and seamless travel experience for our passengers”, said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker in the announcement.
“We know as more people begin making plans to return to their favourite holiday destinations, they will inevitably face the challenge of ensuring they have the right paperwork. Through trialling and supporting the development of new technologies, we aim to provide travellers with a tool that will support them to seamlessly travel across borders with greater confidence.”
Qatar Airways’ business model heavily relies on transporting international passengers through its Doha hub. The carrier is able to smoothly connect passengers between continents thanks to Doha’s advantageous geographic location. Because of this consistent flow of international passengers flying with Qatar Airways, the carrier will considerably boost customer experience by offering a digital vaccine passport.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways expanded its presence to new destinations, such as major tech hubs Seattle and San Francisco in the United States, along with Brisbane, Australia; Cebu, Philippines; Abuja, Nigeria; and more. Additionally, the airline deepened or launched partnerships with major airlines such as American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, LATAM Airlines, Iberia and Air Canada. Qatar Airways’s growth and expanded partnerships will allow more customers to experience Qatar Airways’s service and utilize these new COVID-19 technologies to facilitate traveling.
According to the IATA’s Travel Pass Initiative website, 44 other airlines around the world are trialing the mobile app. These airlines include major carriers such as Air France, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air and Japan Airlines. While 45 airlines are offering the IATA’s Travel Pass, Qatar Airways has become the first to begin trialing the vaccine passport feature. In the near future, other airlines are expected to follow.
Qatar isn’t the only organization capitalizing off of credential technologies. At the beginning of this year, American Airlines implemented the use of VeriFLY, a mobile health passport that offers customers the ability to authenticate negative COVID-19 test results along with other necessary documents required for travel. Recently, American announced it would expand upon its usage of VeriFLY to include COVID-19 vaccination certification.
According to American, passengers can take photos of both sides of their COVID-19 vaccine record and upload it to the VeriFLY app. From there, the VeriFLY team will certify if the record matches the passengers’ requirement for flying to a specific destination.
“VeriFLY gives customers peace of mind that they can meet their destination’s travel requirements and save significant time at the airport,” said Julie Rath, Vice President of Customer Experience at American. “As countries reopen to those who have been vaccinated, we are ready with VeriFLY to help our customers travel with confidence.”
In late May, American initially launched VeriFLY’s vaccine passport feature for The Bahamas, El Salvador and Guatemala. According to American Airlines’s COVID-19 site, VeriFLY’s vaccine passport has since expanded to more countries such as Honduras, Spain, Greece, Italy and France.
VeriFLY allows passengers to have a secure option of uploading vaccination certificates, a more seamless and efficient traveling experience. Additionally, American Airlines offers expedited check-in lanes at the following airports, which allow passengers to bypass standard check-in queues and save time:
The technological ability and advancements to safely and securely store digital vaccine passports aim to boost passenger confidence in flying. These improvements in the usage of vaccine passports will play a decisive role in facilitating the reopening of international travel.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Roger Lu is an aviation enthusiast and analyst researching the implications of technology on global travel. He enjoys writing about how data is utilized in the context of aviation security and customer experience.
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