Airlines are expanding their trials of digital vaccine passports and planning to integrate them into their own smartphone apps, in what may be a glimpse of the future of international travel.
Singapore Airlines will next week ask passengers on flights from Singapore to London to use the Travel Pass app developed by airline industry body IATA to verify their COVID-19 test results and vaccination status.
The trial will run for two weeks, from March 15 to March 28; travellers with an Apple smartphone will be encouraged to download the Travel Pass app and create a digital identification with their photo, passport information and flight details.
They'll then be able to book a COVID test at one of seven participating clinics in Singapore, with the results sent directly to the app.
"Participants will need to show their confirmed status in the app to the check-in staff in Changi Airport before flight departure," the airline says.
"In line with current regulatory requirements, they will also need to bring a physical copy of their health certificate that is issued by the clinic where they took their COVID-19 test."
The new shape of airline apps
Based on the success of the London trial, Singapore Airlines plans to build Travel Pass functionality into its iPhone and Android apps from the middle of 2021, which the airline says will enable a "faster and more seamless check-in process".
"They will be able to view their test results, as well as confirmation status to fly, directly on the app."
The airline notes that the "health status verification" data will be stored locally on the phone and not in any central database, providing them with "full control" over how their personal information is shared.
Malaysia Airlines also intends to incorporate the Travel Pass into its own mobile app as a Digital Travel Health Pass module, which will enable travellers to determine their eligibility for foreign travel based on that country's entry requirements and generate an "OK to Travel" status.
Australian, NZ trials underway
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand will next month ask passengers flying from Auckland to Sydney to trial the Travel Pass as a "vaccine passport" concept to verify they've either been vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19.
"Once borders reopen, travel is going to look very different, with customers' health data needing to be verified at check-in," said the airline's chief digital officer Jennifer Sepull.
"It's essentially like having a digital health certificate that can be easily and securely shared with airlines. By having a place to store all your health credentials digitally in one place, it will not only speed up the check-in process but unlock the potential for contactless travel."
British Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad and ANA have also signed up to trial the Travel Pass on selected flights and routes.
Qantas will evaluate both the Travel Pass and CommonPass digital health apps among passengers and crew on international repatriation flights, with the CommonPass already being given a test run this week on a Boeing 787 flight from Frankfurt to Darwin.
The app connects customers to certified testing labs so that results can be uploaded to the platform and customers can show they have proof of a negative COVID test result before their flight, which is a requirement on all repatriation flights Qantas is operating on behalf of the Australian Government.
"We want to get our international flights back in the air and our people back to work and a digital health pass will be a key part of that," says Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.
"COVID test results and proof of vaccine will be required in many countries for quarantine-free travel, just as it has been for polio and yellow fever vaccinations in the past."