Qantas will introduce a 'digital health' smartphone app for international flights, with the ability to securely store and present proof of Covid vaccination as well as the results of pre-departure Covid tests.
The airline has settled on the Travel Pass platform developed by the International Air Transport Association to spearhead an industry-wide push to streamline a return to the skies for business and leisure travellers – especially as countries begin to insist on vaccination or negative test results for inbound passengers.
Qantas trialled both the Travel Pass and CommonPass digital health apps across a series of international repatriation flights.
The airline says that final development work is now underway to ensure the Travel Pass app is ready for use on Qantas and Jetstar international flights when they resume, which is expected to span from later this year for New Zealand and other potential travel bubble countries such as Singapore, to early-mid 2022 for the bulk of routes to Asia, the USA and the UK.
However, a Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller that the airline is also looking to integrate Travel Pass functionality into the airline's own smartphone app so that passengers would eventually need just the one app.
“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," said Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.
“The IATA Travel Pass will allow travellers to have their Covid test results and vaccine information verified securely, which will be their green light to fly internationally with us.”
Many countries already require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result for international travel.
“A digital health pass will connect customers with Covid testing facilities, health authorities and airlines, and ultimately enable the opening of more travel bubbles and borders,” Tully elaborated.
By using the Travel Pass app, passengers will be able to confirm specific 'health requirements' for their flight, including the entry conditions of the country they're travelling to.
Qantas passengers without smartphones or who choose not to use the Travel Pass app will be able to present their vaccination certificate or proof of a negative test at the airport.
The Australian government is also developing a ‘vaccination passport’ and has been in discussion with IATA on possibly adopting the Travel Pass as a national standard.
This would enable vaccinated flyers more freedom of movement and in the short term, potentially return from some countries into seven days of home isolation rather than 14 days of hotel quarantine.
No jab, no fly...
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has previously said that vaccination would be mandatory for passengers on all international Qantas and Jetstar flights.
Exceptions would be made for passengers who qualify for a medical exemption, along with some 'travel bubble' countries such as New Zealand, unless those destinations made vaccination a condition of entry.
"Once a safe and effective vaccine becomes readily available, it will be a requirement for travel on our international services," Joyce declared in December 2020.
He also cited widespread support for mandatory international vaccination among the airline’s passengers, saying that a recent poll indicated 87% were willing to take the vaccine if it was required to travel internationally, while “85% thought it should be required for travel to at least some countries.”
How the Travel Pass works
The Travel Pass allows passengers to create a digital health wallet linked to their passport. Once they have been tested and/or vaccinated, labs will securely send that data straight to the app, without being stored on a central database.
IATA maintains its app "has been developed with the highest levels of data privacy and security, so passengers always remain in control of their COVID-19 health information."
The app then checks the destination's requirements for travel against the data, and passengers who meet those travel requirements will be given the green tick to travel.
IATA says its Travel Pass platform will provide “a convenient and secure method for travellers to verify and share their COVID test results and vaccination information with border or health officials and airline staff.”
“IATA Travel Pass delivers an advantage over other solutions in that the app enables travellers to create a digital ID derived from a government issued document such as a passport. This means that airlines and governments can have full confidence in the test/vaccine results both from a content and identity perspective.”
The Travel Pass app is already available as a free download on the Apple Store and Google Play, although it can only be activated by entering a six-digit 'invitation code' provided by an airline as part of its Travel Pass trial.
Almost fifty airline have trialled or adopted the Travel Pass, among them Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Air New Zealand, ANA and JAL.
In addition, the app has been adopted by the Singaporean government so that travellers headed to the island state to share pre-departure Covid-19 test results with airlines and immigration staff upon arrival.