The airline industry begins to plan COVID-19 'vaccination passports' for international travel

International air passeger in Chile
(Image credit: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Monday it's "in the final development phase" of a mobile "digital passport" app that would tell airlines if international travelers had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The app would help "get people traveling again safely," IATA's Nick Careen said in a statement, by "giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements."

Australia's Qantas announced Monday that it's on board with requiring a "vaccination passport" for international travelers, starting next year. "We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Australia's Network 9. Korean Air and Air New Zealand also backed the idea but said any changes would have to be coordinated with their respective governments.

In the past few weeks, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Oxford University-AstraZeneca have announced that large trials showed their respective COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and hightly effective at preventing the disease. This encouraging news "has given airlines and nations hope they may soon be able to revive suspended flight routes and dust off lucrative tourism plans," The Associated Press reports. "But countries in Asia and the Pacific, in particular, are determined not to let their hard-won gains against the virus evaporate."

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The IATA and International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, have been working on a digital pass they hope to roll out in the first quarter of 2021. This app would use blockchain technology and wouldn't store user data, IATA said. Korean Air is among those in the airline industry looking at trying out CommonPass, an app endorsed by the World Economic Forum and created with the Commons Project Foundation, and International SOS's AOKpass is currently being used on flights between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan.

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