New ‘COVID’ Passport
All travelers who want to fly to the U.S. are required to present proof of negative Covid-19 tests. For now, proof takes the form of a printout of a test result or a photo of the result — creating opportunities for misunderstandings or potential fraud. Newly launched digital initiatives hope to clear up any ambiguity, standardize information and share the information securely.
International travel is likely to be the first industry to use new digital passports. One of the first flights to trial a new “digital passport” embedded with vaccination information and test results took off Thursday morning, a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Istanbul.
Fliers log in to the Travel Pass app using FaceID on their smartphones, then take selfies to authorize access. They can then scan their passports using the cameras on the phones. From there, passengers can add their itineraries, vaccination certificates and Covid-19 test results.
As part of the trial, passengers in Doha can go to a local medical center, which will send their test results directly to the app. The app shows a green check mark to say you’re ready to travel. The airlines also have access to the back-end system, allowing for contactless and paperless verification.
“What it will do is give people and the authorities confidence that your documentation is correct that you have been vaccinated. You don’t have to carry pieces of paper around, which you could lose and get into a bind with the authorities,” Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said.
Both the International Air Transport Association, which developed the Travel Pass, and the airlines using it say the Travel Pass will adhere to strict data privacy restrictions.
“It also will give you confidence as a passenger that your data that you have put into the system stays on your smartphone and is not being shared with anybody else,” Al Baker said.
Over a dozen airlines have signed up to trial the pass, including Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Qantas. The pass will officially debut at the end of March.
Some governments and airlines have begun making their own apps or allowing for other digital systems. British Airways and the budget airline Ryanair have started letting passengers upload their vaccination and Covid-19 test results with their other personal booking information when they book online. But Al Baker said having a multitude of digital passport formats isn’t ideal.
“We want it to be a standard form accepted by the entire world airport community and immigration community,” he said.