January 14 2021  |  Aviation Trends

Everything you need to know about the IATA Travel Pass app

By Jane Hobson

With information from the IATA Press Release No: 108 and PowerPoint presentation by Nick Careen, Senior Vice President, Airport Passenger Cargo and Security, IATA

A sample of what the IATA Travel Pass app interface may look like, a screenshot from the Association's December 16 PowerPoint presentation

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents some 290 airlines comprising of 82 percent of global air traffic, has revealed three key elements of the IATA Travel Pass. IATA Travel Pass is a mobile app to help travelers easily and securely manage travel, adhering to government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information.

It is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2021 for Android and for iPhone.

“Testing is the immediate solution to safely reopen borders and reconnect people," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer. "Eventually, this is likely to transition to vaccination requirements. In either case, a secure system to manage COVID-19 testing or vaccination information is critical. [The IATA Travel Pass] is being built with data security, convenience and verification as top priorities."

A sample of what the IATA Travel Pass app icon may look like on iPhone, a screenshot from the Association's December 16 PowerPoint presentation

The Association has emphasized these priorities with three critical design elements:

  • Travelers are in control of their personal information
    The Travel Pass stores encrypted data including verified test or vaccination results on the mobile device of the traveler. The traveler controls what information is shared with airlines and authorities. There is no central database storing the information, ensuring the highest standards of data protection laws, including General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR).
    The app is built in accordance with Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) principles. For iPhone, it will use the "Secure Enclave" features and a similar security encryption technology for Android.
  • Global standards ensure verified identity and test/vaccine information
    A government-issued ePassport is used to verify the identity of the user. It serves to create a secured digital representation of the user's passport to send information electronically, linked to their verified identity. The key to this is global standards developed with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which match biometrics passport data and a selfie taken by the user. This creates a verified digital identity (a Type 1 digital travel credential) in line with ICAO standards.

    Currently the main vaccination requirement for entry into some countries is for yellow fever. Under the International Health Regulations, this is managed by the “yellow card” or International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis. The World Health Organization (WHO) is developing digital standards that will make these vastly more secure and will dramatically reduce fraud. When ready, the IATA Travel Pass will be able to accommodate such new global standards. Until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to the general public, the priority is on COVID-19 testing. Laboratories have well-established safety standards for managing and verifying test results to individuals. IATA is partnering with selected and established laboratories to securely link their test results with the verified identity of the IATA Travel Pass holder.

  • Biosafety infused with contactless travel processes
    The ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) recommendations for biosafety include the use of contactless travel processes to reduce the risk of virus transmission when documents need to be exchanged in the travel process.

    The IATA Travel Pass digital identity management module uses the well-developed principles of One ID, which are based on ICAO standards. The IATA Travel Pass will unlock the potential for convenient contactless travel processes from check-in to boarding. While the need for COVID-19 information verification may disappear when the pandemic is eliminated, IATA Travel Pass will remain as a bold step forward in the implementation of contactless travel.

Along with these three key elements, IATA research amid the COVID-19 crisis (September 2020) shows that contactless processes will be popular with travelers:

  • 70 percent of passengers had concerns about handing over their passport, phone or boarding pass to airline agents, security staff or government officials at the airport
  • 85 percent of travelers said that touchless processing throughout the airport would make them feel safer
  • 44 percent of travelers said that they are willing to share personal data to enable touchless process, up significantly from 30 percent in June
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