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Airlines test 'digital passports' for coronavirus vaccination status

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 3/18/2021 Cassidy Morrison
a large air plane on a runway at an airport © Provided by Washington Examiner

International airline companies have launched test runs of a new app that holds passenger records of negative test results and vaccination status in an effort to simplify pandemic travel requirements.

The International Air Transport Association, whose members include American Airlines and Emirates, developed the Travel Pass to simplify the procedure that international arrivals to the United States must follow.

“If we can move 70% of the customers away from checking agents, the checking agents can concentrate on helping those people who don’t have phones, or who aren’t used to the technology,” said Alan Murray Hayden, the IATA's head of airport, passenger, and security products.

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Travelers from outside the U.S. must provide several pieces of proof of either a negative coronavirus test upon arrival or a certification from a healthcare provider that the person has fully recovered from COVID-19. Developers argue that the requirements could create confusion for people coming from other countries and misunderstandings with U.S. customs. They also say the app will mitigate opportunities for handing over fraudulent test results or certificates of vaccination.

A Qatar Airways flight Thursday morning from Doha, Qatar, to Istanbul was one of the first to use the Travel Pass. Several other airlines have already signed on to use the digital platform, such as Singapore Air, Thai Airways, and Japanese airline All Nippon Airways. Passengers traveling on Qatar Airways from Doha have the option to visit a medical center ahead of their flight, which then provides test results directly to the airline company.

“We have confidence in the credibility of the IATA Travel Pass as the industry’s most reliable and innovative solution given its strong data privacy compliance, long-standing entry rules engine, and ability to provide an end-to-end solution,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker said.

To use the app, travelers will use FaceID, followed by another selfie to authorize access. The app then walks travelers through a step-by-step process in which they enter their travel itinerary, proof of negative test results, and vaccination status.

“With the strictest data privacy regulations, IATA Travel Pass … will also assist in laying the foundation for governments across the world to come together in the development of standardised regulations to reduce the current patchwork of red tape across the international travel industry,” al Baker added.

Members of the Biden administration's COVID-19 task force told reporters earlier this week that they had no plans to create a government-run digital platform meant to collect people's sensitive health information, a move that they said would be a violation of privacy.

“it's not the role of the government to hold that data and to do that,” Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser on the COVID-19 task force, said Monday. “It needs to be private; the data should be secure. The access to it should be free, it should be available both digitally and in paper and in multiple languages, and it should be open-source.”

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The airline industry was crippled last year when the pandemic forced air travel to grind to a halt. With vaccination rates climbing over the past month, industry leaders see a glimmer of hope. So far, 113 million doses of vaccine have been administered, exceeding President Biden’s pledge to give out 100 million doses in his first 100 days, an objective deemed unambitious by healthcare experts. About 73.7 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a vaccine, making up about a quarter of the adult population. At least 40 million people have completed a vaccine regimen and are now fully vaccinated.

Tags: Healthcare, News, Coronavirus, Air Travel, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, Privacy, Transportation, Foreign Policy, Vaccination

Original Author: Cassidy Morrison

Original Location: Airlines test 'digital passports' for coronavirus vaccination status

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