Travel Pass boarding Air New Zealand

Published on the 03/03/2021 | Written by Heather Wright

Air NZ travel pass

April trial a step towards reopening Kiwi borders…

Air New Zealand says the Travel Pass health app is ‘a step in the right direction’ in reopening New Zealand’s borders – but it’s still in discussions with the New Zealand government over the lab validation required for the app to work.

The airline expects to begin trialling the Travel Pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on its Auckland-Sydney route at the start of April.

The apps, which are essentially digital health certificates linked to e-passports, are seen as a possible solution to bypass the quarantine quagmire, open borders and enable international travel again.

“Once borders reopen, travel is going to look very different.”

The IATA pass provides a global and standardised solution to validate and authenticate all country regulations regarding Covid passenger travel requirements, helping address issues of testing and the complexity of differing requirements for each country, along with passenger confusion and inefficiencies.

The app can hold personalised data, including verified Covid-19 test results or vaccination details on the travellers mobile device. The results and vaccination details are sent from registered laboratories to the passenger’s phone as a verifiable credential. That information, which is linked to the travellers e-passport, can then be shared with airlines to prove the traveller meets the requirements of the destination country.

But it’s that ‘verified’ aspect that could prove a sticking point. Government endorsed labs will do the testing for outbound travel from New Zealand, while for inbound travel, the New Zealand government will need to accept test results from labs endorsed by the government of origin – making intergovernmental agreement part of the solution.

Air New Zealand was coy today about where exactly things stand on the validation front.

A spokesperson told iStart the airline has been speaking with the government since January and continues ‘to have conversations around options for validation of testing and vaccination’.

“We will continue to work with the government and provide information on how IATA’s platform works in our operational environment,” the spokesperson says. The airline declined to comment on whether it was confident accreditation of labs would be achieved in time for the April trial.

Qantas is already trialling the IATA app as well as the World Economic Forum/Commons Project Foundation-developed CommonPass app. While the initial Qantas trials focused on airline crew, that was extended this week to Australians returning home.

Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad are also trialling the IATA app.

Jennifer Sepull, Air New Zealand chief digital officer, says the app will provide customers and the airline alike that everyone on board meets the government health requirements, while also speeding up the check-in process and unlocking the potential for contactless travel.

“Once borders reopen, travel is going to look very different, with customers’ health data needing to be verified at check-in,” Sepull says. “It’s essentially like having a digital health certificate that can be easily and securely shared with airlines. This will give customers peace of mind that they meet all travel requirements for the different countries around the world before they even get to the airport.”

Says the Air New Zealand spokesperson: “With constantly changing entry and departure testing and paperwork requirements, we want to streamline the health verification process to help customers know what they need to take their next international trip safely.

“For our crew, keeping up to date with testing requirements, whether that’s presenting a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure or 96 hours is tricky but likely to be our reality for years to come.

“We know travelling is more complicated these days and giving our crew and customers the tools to digitally manage everything in one place will give them the confidence they need to fly.”

Air New Zealand says Kiwi customers will be able to create a digital health wallet linked to their e-passport.

Once the traveller has been tested and/or vaccinated, labs will securely send the data to the individual’s app. It then checks requirements for travel against the data and customers who meet those requirements will be given the green tick to travel.

Because the app validates the data against government requirements, it will be able to tell if someone has had one shot when two shots are required.

IATA says since the data is sent from a registered lab to the passengers phone as a verifiable credential it’s not possible for the passenger to tamper with the data. There are also check put in place to ensure the passengers identity to avoid transferring test results to someone else.

The system is decentralised, with no central database storing the passenger information, and passengers ‘have complete discretion as to whether they share their data or not, including what data’. Passengers can also delete their data at any time, Air New Zealand says.

The airline says paper based alternatives will be available for anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone, or doesn’t want to use Travel Pass.


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