Airlines set to launch international vaccine passport as part of summer holidays plan

Charles Hymas
·3-min read

Watch: EU to propose vaccine certificates

The first digital vaccine certificate is set to be launched by the world's airlines this month as part of a four-step plan for summer holidays being considered by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The Travel Pass app, developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will allow passengers to present pre-departure test or vaccine certificates on arrival at their destination, enabling them to sidestep quarantine or other restrictions.

IATA is in talks with the DfT over the app, to which immunity certificates for those who have had Covid but have not been vaccinated could be added. It will be trialled by 10 airlines including IAG, which owns BA, Qantas and Singapore Airlines, starting initially with pre-test data but ready to be adapted to include vaccine certificates once they are digitised.

At present, most countries are using paper to confirm people's inoculations, which the airlines are concerned could delay the introduction of a travel pass with both vaccinations and test data and lead to lengthy queues at airport immigration desks.

The app is part of a four-stage approach IATA has proposed to the DfT that would see international travel restart in May, with pre-departure testing or vaccines being used for entry to a country before the eventual removal of all restrictions to allow free travel between "green list" countries.

The IATA app will be trialled by 10 airlines including IAG, which owns BA, Qantas and Singapore Airlines - Niklas Hall'en/AFP
The IATA app will be trialled by 10 airlines including IAG, which owns BA, Qantas and Singapore Airlines - Niklas Hall'en/AFP

It proposes three tiers of countries including a "red list", where there may still be quarantine and pre-departure testing, an "amber list" where quarantine is replaced by tests or vaccine certificates, and a "green list" where travel corridors between low-risk countries could allow unrestricted travel.

The move comes after EU leaders pledged on Monday that a vaccination passport scheme will be open to British travellers in time to save summer holidays. A proposal for a "digital green pass" to kick-start tourism by the end of June will be put forward by the European Commission on March 17.

A vaccination and test "passport" is seen by the UK's global travel taskforce as a key measure to unlock the foreign summer holiday season, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, confirmed at the first taskforce meeting on Tuesday. It will present its proposals on April 12 before foreign travel restarts from May 17 at the earliest.

The IATA travel pass is one of a number of such health apps being developed. Travellers will be able to use it to check entry requirements for each country, find and book pre-departure tests and then upload the results and vaccination certificate data sent to them by labs or health centres.

In its submission to the DfT, the IATA warned: "Operators are already working on technology solutions and there is a risk that they are delivered faster than government pace. Therefore we believe that it is vital that governments quickly support, evaluate and adopt the digital health wallet applications being developed by a number of providers, including the IATA travel pass.

"These digital solutions better enable airlines to verify and board passengers at greater scale and also benefit border processing upon arrival, thereby minimising border queues."

It came as Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, accepted that the Government will have to provide people with vaccine certificates but said a Cabinet Office review would determine how and where they could be used.

"It is clear that we will need to provide people with the ability to certify whether they have had the jab. And we will need to absolutely take into consideration those who have a certified clinical reason why they can't have the jab," Mr Hancock said.

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