Air New Zealand to trial digital vaccine travel pass in April

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Air New Zealand has announced it will trial a digital health travel app for flights between Auckland and Sydney in April.

The app, developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will allow travellers to create a digital health wallet linked to their e-passport. Once a person is tested or vaccinated for COVID-19, testing labs will be able to share — with the consent of individuals — the results to the app, which is cross-checked with travel requirements before giving travellers the green tick to travel if they meet those requirements.

IATA senior vice president airport and security Nick Careen assured the app was developed with the “highest levels of data privacy and security, so passengers always remain in control of their COVID-19 health information”.

The trial, which will run for three weeks, comes as countries begin to roll out COVID-19 vaccines.

The company said the potential of introducing a digital health app would help the airline “streamline the health verification process to help customers know what they need to take their next international trip safely”.

“Once borders reopen, travel is going to look very different, with customers’ health data needing to be verified at check-in,” Air New Zealand CDO Jennifer Sepull said.

“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.”

The app will initially be tested by aircrew and customers who will be invited to join the trial.

Last November, IATA boasted that it had reached the final development stage of a standardised digital platform, which it claimed would enable international borders to reopen safely and allow overseas travel to resume.

The IATA Travel Pass will incorporate four open-sourced and interoperable modules that the association claims will be combined to deliver an end-to-end solution.

These modules include a global registry that enables airline passengers to find accurate information about travel, testing, and eventually vaccine requirements for their journey, as well as the location of testing and vaccination centres at their departure location, which meet the standards for vaccination requirements of their destination.

The pass will also feature a lab app to enable authorised labs and test centres to share and test vaccination certificates with passengers, and a contactless travel app so passengers are able to create a digital passport that allows them to receive test and vaccination certificates to verify they can travel, which could then be shared with airlines and authorities.

The app could also be used by travellers to manage travel documentation digitally, the IATA added.  

The IATA also outlined that all technology used to develop the pass would be decentralised to ensure that no central database holding passenger information would exist to maintain a high level of data privacy and security. Instead, passengers would have the sole right to share their data and delete it from the app at any time.

The trans-Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand reopened on Sunday. In its current form, the travel bubble is a one-way arrangement that enables passengers from New Zealand to travel into Australia without needing to quarantine. Passengers returning from Australia to New Zealand are still required to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

Until March 1, passengers who have been in Auckland in the past two weeks will be required to provide evidence that they have taken a COVID-19 test 72 hours or less before departure.

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