Airport Show
13 - 15 May 2025

Airport Innovation Spotlight: Travel Passes under trial

Reopening borders is an economic and political priority of the highest order, as the world tries to resume business in a safe and secure manner. In the wake of the pandemic and subsequent vaccination rollouts, it’s understandable that world governments are operating with a high degree of caution. There is a growing attitude of being ‘safe rather than sorry’ when it comes to relaxing border controls that have been in place for months with good reason. 

In this environment, the key to reopening is having the necessary infrastructure and support in place to ensure that people can travel by air safely and with complete transparency regarding all things COVID-related. Passengers need to know exactly what is expected of them well in advance of their flight. They need to know how to prove their vaccination status, what testing requirements there may be prior to travel, and what happens when they land. Alongside the potential confusion caused by any information gap, the situation is complicated further by the prospect of fraud, human error and rapidly changing government policy in the face of this still-volatile global situation.

To help with this process, IATA is trialling its Travel Pass, a digital platform allowing passengers to view, understand and comply with all countries’ travel regulations regarding COVID-19. The IATA Travel Pass is an open-source app, meaning that all passengers can install it on their smartphone for ease of use.

This month saw the first successful trial of the pass on an international commercial flight. Passengers on the Singapore Airlines flight to London Heathrow used the platform to create a secure digital version of their passport on their mobile, input their flight details to learn of travel restrictions and requirements, and then receive verified test results and a confirmation that they did, in fact, meet all travel requirements. The trial went smoothly, with all passengers using the pass responding favourably to it. Further trials are soon to follow. Emirates and Etihad Airways are two of the early partners in the scheme, and will begin their own trials shortly.

This is a highly encouraging start for IATA Travel Pass specifically and for the digitised travel pass concept in general. Recent polls suggest that there is plenty of enthusiasm for the idea among regular air travellers. IATA’s last poll saw 89% agree with the need for global standards, with 80% saying that they were keen to use a mobile app to manage their travel credentials easily and efficiently. Such public understanding and buy-in will be crucial to the long-term success of this kind of scheme, and all stakeholders are going to need to collaborate to keep things as simple and convenient as possible for the end users.

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