Quarantine-free travel may be one step closer with the new travel industry app


February 25, 2021: A new app is set to launch in the upcoming weeks, which marks its first step to resuming quarantine-free international travel.

The International Air Travel Association (IATA) travel app will permit the governments and airlines to digitally collect, access, and share information on individual passengers’ Covid-19 test and vaccination status.

The industry body, of which 290 airlines are members, said the tool would make the health documentation checks efficient while it speeds up the recovery of the hard-hit travel sector.

“It’s really about digitizing an existing process,” Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for airport passenger cargo and security, told CNBC on Wednesday.

Singapore Airlines will be the first carrier to pilot the tool on an end-to-end London Heathrow route. Thirty other airlines that include Air New Zealand, Emirates, and Etihad in the UAE, are ready to conduct trials in March and April.

IATA is not the only one to develop digital health passports that intends to restart cross-border travel. International agencies, governments, and tech companies are all also taking part. But Careen said he hopes the app will establish a “minimum set of requirements” to allow for greater interoperability.

“Eventually, you’ll see multiple people in this space,” Careen said, “but we’re setting the baseline in terms of what the standard needs to be.”

With the new app and continues vaccine rollouts, the global airline association estimates that travel could reach around 50% of 2019 levels by the year-end.

Analysts had expected a more significant pick-up in traveling previously in early 2021, but the virus’s continued spread and the coronavirus new strains have pushed back those expectations.

“That’s the current economic forecast,” said Careen. “There’s a lot of variables that play into that.”

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