Aviation aims for the sky with IATA Travel Pass

Set to soar: The IATA Travel Pass, which will be unveiled, seeks to revive the badly battered civil aviation sector.

PETALING JAYA: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) will unveil the specifics of the IATA Travel Pass as it seeks to revive the badly battered civil aviation sector.

“For governments to reopen international borders and restart aviation, they need to be confident that they are mitigating the risk of importing Covid-19 and have confidence in a passenger’s verified Covid-19 status, be it testing or vaccination, ” said IATA as a prelude to its global press briefing that takes place at noon today.

The briefing is expected to be chaired by Conrad Clifford, IATA’s regional vice-president for Asia Pacific, and Vinoop Goel, regional director for airports and external relations.

IATA’s Travel Pass is supposed to offer travellers a seamless option to securely manage clearances required for their international travel.

It would do this via a globally accepted standard that aims to move away from paper processes to a digital platform, and will include government requirements for Covid-19 testing or vaccines.

“To reopen borders without quarantines means governments need accurate information on passengers’ Covid-19 health status, ” said the IATA.

“These challenges include the fragmented and diverse set of Covid-19 testing requirements for entry and exit, as well as the different types of tests (PCR, LAMP, antigen and spectroscopic) required by governments, ” it added.

The association said these differing requirements had created a “challenging and complex environment for immigration authorities, passengers and airlines to navigate”.

It also pointed out that the complexity of the various rulings that were also evolving meant that passengers were often confused and in constant need of accurate information.

“But they do not know where to find it, nor do they understand it even if they do find it, ” said the IATA.

It added that the final barrier was one characterised by inefficiencies, errors or outright fraud.

“Check-in agents need to follow extensive entry requirement guidance and try to determine the authenticity of multiple non-standard test documents passengers present to them.

“This leads to health check inefficiencies, errors and fraud, which is an increasing problem around the world, ” it said.

This is where the IATA Travel Pass, touted as a “global and standardised solution”, can act to smoothen all the regulatory peaks and valleys by allowing easy validation and authentication of all country regulations regarding Covid-19 passenger travel requirements.

“The main priority is to get people travelling again safely.

“In the immediate term, that means establishing confidence in governments that systematic pre-departure Covid-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements, ” it said.

Meanwhile, the AirAsia Group has welcomed news of Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out across Malaysia commencing this week, as the first key indicator of a global travel reboot in the near future.

In a statement yesterday, the airline said key international markets were progressing well with vaccination programmes, including Indonesia, Singapore, China and Australia, while Thailand and the Philippines were scheduled to begin their vaccination programme by the first quarter of this year.

“After a year of uncertainty, it is great to see that this extremely challenging chapter is finally coming to a close, ” said AirAsia group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

“AirAsia has spent the travel downtime period to put in place rigorous digital initiatives and innovative technologies that will make air travel even safer and more seamless post-Covid-19.

“Better testing, leisure travel bubbles, antiviral medicines and importantly, digital health passports providing a single tool for health records across Asean and beyond, are also coming soon to support the global travel recovery.

“I am confident that AirAsia will recover faster than many due to our low-cost model, position in the market, and the fast-tracking of our digital transformation to become Asia’s leading travel and lifestyle super-app, which has helped to mitigate adverse effects from the pandemic, ” he said.

According to the budget carrier group, Covid-19 has proven to be the most challenging situation it has encountered since it started flying in 1993. It had weathered 9/11 (the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001), the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003, various avian flu outbreaks, and many earthquakes.

“We have been through our fair share of crises, but Covid-19 has by far posed the most challenging situation we have ever experienced.

“Never before has there been such a restricted global travel environment.

After a year of strict cost containment, including exiting Japan and reducing our stake in India, finally there is light at the end of this very long tunnel, ” said Fernandes, who expressed hope that investors would continue to place their faith in aviation and, in particular, AirAsia.

“I remain optimistic we will achieve our fundraising target of RM2.5bil. We expect further clarity to be reached on all funding efforts by the end of March.

“We can look forward to a gradual recovery in 2021 in all of our key markets, and potentially a full recovery within the next two years, ” he added.

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