The Future of Travel: The Vaccine Passport

The future of travel is so uncertain nowadays as we navigate our new normal. Although people are still travelling, guidance is constantly changing. A few weeks ago, I saw Qantas announced it will be required for their passengers to be vaccinated in order to fly with them. I only saw the news title, as I didn’t have time to read in that moment, but I had a slew of questions. What exactly does that mean? Is that only for international flights, or is it for domestic as well? Are other airlines following suit? How are people going to prove their vaccination status? Will there be a vaccine passport? When does this go into effect? What if you already have a flight booked? All these questions led me to research for some more information, and this is what I found:

Have You Heard of IATA Before?

I personally had not before looking into this vaccine passport. IATA stands for International Air Transport Association, and the association represents approximately 290 airlines worldwide – including British Airlines, Delta Airlines, Emirates, Kenya Airways, Qantas, Turkish Airlines, and so much more.

According to their website, they “support areas of aviation activity and help formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues”. Obviously COVID has proven to contribute to critical aviation issues, as flight activity has drastically decreased and people are more hesitant to travel internationally.

What Exactly is the Vaccine Passport?

Nicknamed as the Vaccine Passport, IATA’s Travel Pass Initiative is a mobile app that incorporates four different components:

  1. Registry of Health Requirements. Allows passengers to find accurate and updated information on testing and vaccine requirements for their destinations and/or layovers along the way
  2. Registry of Testing/Vaccination Centers. Allows passengers to find COVID testing and vaccination centers from departure location
  3. Lab App. Allows passengers to securely manage and store test and vaccination results. Authorized labs and test centers will be able to send directly to passengers via the app
  4. Contactless Travel App. Allows passengers to manage and share COVID results and status to airlines/authorities for verification purposes.

Considering not everyone has a smart phone, IATA does intend to have paper options available with each airline. But for those who do have smart phones, the Travel Pass will be a free app and it will be able to be incorporated into airline apps. For example, if you fly Delta, you’ll be able to import necessary documentation directly into the Delta app. Interesting indeed!

When is Does the Travel Pass Go into Effect?

The app is not ready for a complete roll out just yet, but a few airlines will be the first to beta test the Travel Pass. Singapore Airlines and British Airways will start trials this month, and Etihad and Emirates are projected to start trials in April. Feel free to read more here and here! We’ll have to stay tuned to see how successful and effective this initiative is. Depending on these results, the future of travel may forever be altered. I think it’s important to emphasize that airlines themselves cannot require vaccination of passengers; however, they are the enforcers if/when governments require a certain status for entry (as we see with negative COVID test results).

As always, thank you for taking the time to read! This is an interesting topic indeed and I’m intrigued to see where this will go and how it will impact the future of travel. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this vaccine passport? Do you think it’s a great idea or do you have reservations about it? IATA did compile a FAQ Fact Sheet, so make sure to check that out, as it goes more in depth about their initiative!

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