Are Digital Passports the key to future air travel?

Are Digital Passports the key to future air travel?

In March 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its digital passport – an app that will link a traveller’s passport with records of their pre-flight coronavirus tests and vaccinations to help revive air travel.

IATA has been working globally with industry trade groups, airlines, governments and the World Health Organization to streamline the tool to ensure it meets the minimum standards set forth by the regulating bodies in each jurisdiction.

Airlines have been signing up to type trial IATA’s new app: Air New Zealand, RwandAir, Emirates and Singapore Airlines have all done so. Starting this week, Singapore Airlines is type trialing this new app for passengers travelling from Singapore to London Heathrow. This type trial requires the traveller to preload the information into the app and schedule a covid test at one of seven participating clinics prior to departure. The passenger will able to see their results in the app and will get a confirmation on the ability to fly.

Recently, the Canadian government announced that it was taking part in discussions with other G7 nations about the implementation of some form of vaccine passport. “We are certainly working on the idea of vaccine passports with our G-7 partners. I was on a call with my G7 health minister counterparts just a couple of weeks ago, and it is a very live issue,” said Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

The government has not said if an introduction of a program like this will lead to changes to quarantine periods or the reopening of borders if there is a standardized proof of vaccination and the traveller can provide that proof that they have the vaccination. The recent announcement by the government gives hope that through initiatives like this the road to recovery is on the horizon.

“We are optimistic the Canadian government will see the value in a standardized program like this,” said Stan Pickthall, IAM General Vice-President. “Our members need this to get back to work, Canadian citizens need the comfort of knowing that arriving passengers are not getting them sick and the Canadian economy needs it.”

As air transportation is one of the single largest contributors to the Canadian economy, it is critical that Canada get onboard with global initiatives before more jobs are lost. A program like this would instill confidence in a battered industry while protecting the wellness of Canadians by ensuring everyone arriving into this country has been tested and vaccinated.

Support for a travel app of this nature is growing and some countries are already opening their borders, but for this to work, data security and global standards are crucial. (source: IATA).

Some results from an IATA survey done between 15-23 February, 2021 show that 89% of respondents believe that governments need to standardize vaccine and testing certificates. The survey also shows that 80% are encouraged by the prospect of the IATA Travel Pass App and would use it as soon as available, while 78% will only use a travel credential app if they have full control over their data (source: IATA).

The IAMAW is the largest union in Air Transportation and Aviation in Canada. We are also the largest union representing workers at many service providers in airports across the country, working in airlines, on the ground, aircraft maintenance, and as the bargaining agent for nearly 90% of screening officers across Canada.


For more information:
Keith Aiken, IAM Canada Air Transportation Coordinator