More airlines and other stake holders seem to be calling for vaccination certificates, as a way to restart international travel. And not just air travel, either.
Qantas caused controversy with the idea last November, but more voices now call for vaccination certificates, for international travel. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce first suggested a “vaccination passport”, possibly in an electronic form:
“What we are looking at is how you can have [a] vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are travelling to. There’s a lot of logistics, a lot of technology that will be needed to be put in place to make this happen. But the airlines and the governments are working on this as we speak”.
The idea seemed controversial to some, citing privacy and civil liberty-related issues. Mr Joyce later made more comments, pointing out that vaccination certificates for yellow fever or malaria have existed for years. Additionally, individual airlines have already done significant work on the subject. United airlines has tried health apps like ‘Common Pass’. American Airlines is expanding use of its own ‘VeriFly’.
American Airlines’ app starts by cataloguing the requirements of various destination countries. Each traveller can then enter his or her negative Covid-19 results and other requirements. In essence, the app works as a ‘digital health pass’. In its development, the idea sounds more and more like the sort of vaccination certificate that airlines have in mind. Except of course that in this case, it is about negative tests.
More Acceptance For Vaccination Certificates?
The problem with initiatives like this from American Airlines, is universal acceptance – or lack thereof. So far, passengers can use VeriFLY from the US to Jamaica, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador Guatemala and Honduras. The airline has to make arrangements individually, for each new destination. And of course just because the app works one way, it won’t necessarily work for a return leg. When vaccines come into play, airlines are more interested in a universal certificate.
According to a BBC report, this is something IATA is now working on. It is actually quite similar to what Qantas’ CEO suggested. IATA is working on an app, that takes the form of a digital certificate, that manages proof of testing and vaccination. IATA aims for the app to satisfy authorities around the world. They hope to launch this app by the end of March this year.
Akbar Al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, hopes IATA’s vaccination certificate have more success than previous efforts:
“I think that this will be the new norm that everybody will have to produce a vaccination certificate to board an aeroplane – and not only to board an aeroplane, a lot of countries would require that you be vaccinated before you come to the countries.”
Tony Fernandes, founder and CEO of Air Asia echoed the same view. More to the point, he hopes that vaccination certificates will finally allow some coordination between countries. Referring to existing coordination, he added that “In my history of the aviation business, I’ve never seen something so poorly coordinated.”
Countries Joining In?
The two airline CEOs hope that IATA will coordinate its efforts with ICAO and the WHO. This should make it more likely that a such a vaccination certificate will have universal acceptance. The question is whether such an effort could force its ‘app’ to individual countries. But interestingly, there may already be several countries out there that will not need much convincing.
Almost a week earlier, Reuters reported Greece’s calls for the creation of “an EU-wide, Covid-19 vaccination certificate to help restore cross-border travel”. More to the point, Greek authorities have already created their own form of a vaccination certificate. The goal is to make it available to prospective holidaymakers, before next summer. The country relies on tourism for at least a fifth of its GDP.
Greece hopes that its vaccination certificates will find more imitators in the rest of the EU. They’ve also clarified that they don’t intend to make vaccination mandatory for arrivals. However, they believe that those with the certificates should be free to travel.
It will be interesting to see if Greece and more countries will join voices with IATA. The country’s airlines would certainly welcome the move. And more countries in the south of Europe would welcome a resurgence of travel, as vaccines are distributed more and more.