Post pandemic, air travel will never be the same again. Of course, you have to carry your usual documents, but you must be aware that you are constantly under surveillance and might need to answer three questions before crossing the border.
1. Did you vaccinate?
2. Got your Covid test done?
3. Are you ready for quarantine? That's a given!
If your answer is yes to all the above questions, International Air Transport Association (IATA) will issue a travel pass for the Gulf nations very soon. To re-open borders without quarantine and restart aviation, governments need to be confident that they are effectively mitigating the risk of importing COVID-19. This means having accurate information on passengers’ COVID-19 health status. Though Indian airlines are not part of this development (according to the latest rules) IATA is hopeful that they might soon be part of this latest rule book. If that is the case, when you enter a new country, this travel pass might be your solution to all the vaccine-related issues. The IATA Travel Pass is being developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global trade association of which 290 airlines are a member.
What is a travel pass?
Covid safety protocols in one app, that’s what this travel pass is all about. The IATA travel pass is a mobile app that can be used by passengers to obtain and store their COVID-19 test results from accredited laboratories. Other airlines can get the necessary information through this app. And through this app, travellers can get an idea in advance whether they will get permission to travel. This will help in answering all your Covid and vaccination-related doubts. When it comes to Covid protocols, each nation has a different set of rules. Even the vaccines approved are different in different nations. There will be changes in the quarantine rules as well. For a migrant, such rules can be a cause for worry and there will be uncertainty regarding visiting the gulf. IATA travel pass promises to take care of all such uncertainties and anxieties for a migrant.
This travel pass was started in April. Android users can download the IATA Travel Pass from the Google Play Store and enter the activation code. Remember to print a copy of your PCR certificate results which may be needed by the immigration authorities during your trip. Details like biometrics and passport should be uploaded on the app. Once this is done, the travel pass gets translated as a digital passport. Another favourable aspect is that contact travel is possible with this facility.
IATA is providing access to government sanctioned labs of different countries and that helps in obtaining accurate details in the app. The labs can directly pass information regarding vaccination and Covid testing to the app. Through this app, you can also find certified labs. Vaccinations don’t offer complete protection against being infected by COVID-19, but they do dramatically reduce the chances of infection, along with two other benefits. First, among those who are still infected, they massively decrease the severity of symptoms. Second – and crucially for airlines – vaccinated people who do still get infected are far less likely to pass the infection to others.
So in effect the app has four elements – health requirements based on a travel destination, testing centre registry at arrival or departure locations, ability to allow authorised labs to send test results via the app and a complete digital passport that allows storage and sharing of relevant data.
Gulf and travel pass
Qatar Airways was the first airline that used this facility. Later airlines like Saudi Arabia’s Saudia, UAE’s Etihad, Emirates, Bahrain’s Gulf air were all part of this provision. Currently, the digital pass is mostly used to travel to Europe. As part of the experiment, Gulf air started using the IATA Travel pass from May 7th. This pass was used to fly towards London, Singapore, and Athens. The covid details are obtained with the help of Bahrain’s Bahrain special hospital and Royal Bahrain hospital. IATA officials are confident that this facility will be rampant in the Gulf countries soon.
LATAM Airlines Group has now begun using the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass app to help its passengers to easily manage travel requirements and documents. The pilot phase began on June 14 and will end on July 2. Passengers can volunteer to use the Travel Pass on select flight routes, from Lima to Miami, Lima to Santiago de Chile, Santiago de Chile to Lima and Santiago de Chile to Miami. Their information from COVID-19 tests and vaccinations will be stored in the app for easy access. Participants who complete each step in the trial phase, including the survey at the end, will receive 1,000 bonus LATAM Pass Miles as a reward.
Emirates confirmed that it was scaling up its IATA Travel Pass capabilities on its flights to Barcelona, Moscow, Istanbul, New York JFK, Madrid and from London Heathrow with plans to scale up across all of its flights by July, in addition to offering customers travelling from Dubai paperless verification of COVID-19 related medical records through its partnership with the Dubai Health Authority.
As for Etihad, you can use the IATA Travel Pass app on routes departing from Abu Dhabi to North America up to 15 June 2021. In addition to this, Etihad is offering one free PCR test at designated labs in case the passenger participates in the trial of the IATA travel pass. This is valid for travel until June 30, the airline said on its website.
When it comes to vaccine issue, immigrants had a tough time when they reached the border of Saudi Arabia. Those who tried to enter Saudi via Bahrain were denied permission. Those who didn’t take the vaccine were urged to opt for expensive institutional quarantine. And this also led to a hike in airfare. That Covid shield vaccine has not been approved in Saudi Arabia has been a major setback for those travelling to this country. Though it was later approved Saudi travellers insist that the issue still persists.
The absence of batch number and dateline in the vaccine certificate is the next cause of concern. Though Kerala CM did assure that such issues will be addressed, the situation remains unchanged. To eliminate such inconsistencies, a travel pass or a similar process will be introduced. Another hitch is that the app is still not popular and therefore a lot of things continue to be ambiguous. There is still no surety regarding the acceptability of this app in other countries. Since the second wave is rampant in India, this app might take a while to establish here. Get the app here