2020 was a terrible year for airlines. When vaccines were approved in late 2020, many thought this was the start of a return to travel. Sadly, the reverse has happened with countries closing borders or imposing strict quarantine for arrivals. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, with countries dependent on tourism beginning to look at less stringent measures for those that have been vaccinated.
One major stumbling block is that between testing and vaccines, it is difficult for airlines and border officials to verify results and certificates. Documents could be forged, and checking paperwork is time-consuming. IATA, the International Air Transport Association, came up with its own solution with a Travel Pass app that it hoped airlines would adopt. Travel Pass is a mobile app to help travelers quickly and securely manage their travel for government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information.
"Testing is the immediate solution to safely re-open borders and re-connect people. And eventually, this is likely to transition to vaccination requirements. In either case, a secure system to manage COVID-19 testing or vaccination information is critical. The IATA Travel Pass is a solution that both travelers and governments can trust. And it is being built with data security, convenience, and verification as top priorities," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO.
The IATA Travel Pass stores encrypted data, including verified test or vaccination results on the traveler's mobile phones. The passenger then has full control of what information is shared from their cellphone with airlines and authorities. The app also verifies the user's government ID and test/vaccinations. IATA is hoping to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) in developing digital standards that will make tests and vaccinations secure and less prone to fraud.
So far, Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore Airlines have all been trialing the Travel Pass app, with Qatar Airways planning to start trials in March. British Airways and American Airlines went in a slightly different direction.
This week, British Airways announced that it would begin trialing their own version called "VeriFLY." The app works in much the same way as the IATA one and will be trialed on flights to the US during February. The new digital health travel passport, which can be downloaded to a mobile device, is designed to check customers meet the entry requirements of their destination by providing digital health document verification and confirming eligibility. The trial follows the recent announcement that American Airlines, British Airways' joint business, and oneworld partner now allow all customers to use VeriFLY when traveling to the US from all international destinations. American became the first airline to operate VeriFLY in November, and thousands of customers have already traveled using the app. British Airways is the first airline in the UK to trial a mobile travel health passport service for those traveling from London. It will also be the only airline outside the US to offer its customers the opportunity to trial VeriFLY.
Some countries like The Seychelles and Cyprus have already announced their intentions to make dispensations for passengers who have had both doses of the COVID inoculation. With the use of digital health passports, this could be how airlines can finally start flying their customers on vacations once again.
This article originally appeared on Forbes