Virgin’s IATA Travel Pass trial goes live

By Lisa James
25/04/2021
Home » Virgin’s IATA Travel Pass trial goes live

Virgin Atlantic’s month-long IATA Travel Pass trial is now live on the airline’s Heathrow-Barbados service.

The trial had been scheduled to start on 16 April but was delayed by the closure of Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport, due to ash fall caused by the eruption of La Soufrière volcano on St Vincent.

The airport has now reopened and customers on VS131 from Heathrow were invited to download the free smartphone app and participate in the first trial flight on Friday.

Virgin is the first UK airline to begin testing the travel pass, in partnership with the government of Barbados. Around 30 worldwide airlines have signed up to the trials.

The IATA Travel Pass will allow customers to verify they meet the health criteria needed to travel between certain countries, locate labs and present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test to the relevant authorities.

If implemented widely, digital health passes will help reduce check in times, make border checks more manageable and streamline customer journeys.

Currently, such information is kept on paper documents, but the ‘paper-only-based processes will not be viable as customer numbers increase’, said Virgin Atlantic Chief Customer and Operating Officer Corneel Koster.

He urged the UK Government to confirm the apps will be accepted at the UK border.

IATA Senior Vice President Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security Nick Careen also said a digital solution is essential.

“Managing the risk of importing COVID-19 cases using paper processes will be a hassle for passengers. It will be unmanageable for airlines, airports and border authorities. And it will leave the system vulnerable to fraud.

“The IATA Travel Pass trial with Virgin Atlantic and the government of Barbados shows that governments can efficiently manage travel requirements with complete confidence in the identity of the passenger and the veracity of the travel credentials — importantly, avoiding long queues. As we continue the trial, we will maintain our engagement with the UK Authorities to demonstrate that the solution can deliver benefits at both ends of journey.”

IATA says the Travel Pass give users full control over how their personal information is shared, as the data is stored locally on their phone and not in any central database.

It can be used as a stand-alone solution, integrated into airlines’ own apps, or used in a modular way with other digital solutions, for a seamless travel experience.

Travellers need an iPhone 7 or later version, which is NFC (Near Field Communication)-enabled and a biometric passport to use the app. An Android version will be available in mid-May.

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