Vaccination passports and business travel: What you need to know

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) expects digital COVID-19 passports to be ready “as soon as possible” and certainly by the end of March, just in time for the Easter break.

Vaccination passports will be in the form of an app that will confirm if a passenger has been vaccinated or tested by an approved authority. The confirmation will allow access to countries or regions on an approved list. Many countries still have restrictions and quarantines in place. Therefore, the approved list will change over time as the vaccination programmes take place worldwide.

vaccination passportsBelow is a summary of the facts and everything you need to know about vaccination passports and travel in the post-pandemic era.

Confidence returns to the travel industry

The travel industry agrees that the pass is essential in kick-starting the return to global travel for both business and pleasure.

In a press release by the IATA’s regional director of airports and external relations, Vinoop Goel, The IATA confirmed what most travel pundits know already. “Confidence is key” – passengers need to feel confident that the testing undertaken is accurate and will allow access into countries that still have restrictions.

Governments worldwide must be confident that passengers have adhered to the strict terms of testing and quarantine but also that the test results are accurate and adequately meet the regulations that have been set out.

Free digital passport for all

Singapore Airlines had already started trials of a travel pass back in December 2020. However, the global travel passport will be available to download on iOS and Android free of charge and will likely go live in March.

Qatar Airways, Etihad and Air New Zealand are among the airlines conducting trials for the IATA, with the rollout expected to happen throughout most airlines in the Asia Pacific region.

With many organisations vying to provide free passports, the fact that a global pass is not readily available may hinder the recovery until an agreement is reached.

The following digital passports are currently available:

  • AOKPass – A collaboration between the international SOS and the SGS Group to create this secure portable copy of your medical records.
  • CommonPass – A pass that has a partnership with the World Economic Forum.
  • Health Pass by Clear – Provided by the airport biometrics provider.

It’s clear that participating countries’ confusion may slow the road to recovery in practical terms until a globally accepted passport is available.

Vaccination passports are essential

Vaccination passports are essential for quarantine-free travel. The UK’s vaccination program is in full swing, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly stating that all over 18’s will receive their first dose of the vaccination by 31st July. In line with this statement, the travel industry is gearing up for the busy late summer getaway.

While the public will applaud the Priminster’s optimism, the aviation industry expects the progress to be slow, even with the introduction of the digital passport.

Summary for business travellers

According to government guidance, strict travel restrictions are in place in the UK until 17th May at the earliest. Travel corridors are suspended with anyone who is not exempt expected to quarantine for ten days on arrival in the UK.

On arrival, you must quarantine for ten days. If you have been to a country on the travel ban list, the quarantine restrictions state you must spend the quarantine period in a government-approved hotel. As a result, it’s important you stay up to date on which countries are on the travel ban list.

Some occupations are exempt from travel restrictions but only if travellers have not visited the countries on the ban list quotes above. These categories include aerospace engineers and airline pilots and crew, truck and coach drivers; a complete list is available on the website and should be consulted before travelling for business.

General optimism has increased, and travellers are hopeful of returning to normal, but it’s also true that what we conceive as ‘normal’ will never be the same again. In the short term, travelling for pleasure will be less enjoyable, and business travel, while important, will be condensed into essential journeys only.

Only a few options make business travel possible as commercial airlines have not fully opened global operations. Security, health, and time spent in transit are uppermost on executives’ concern list, leaving the private aviation industry the only viable option until the rest of the world has caught up.