Travel tech industry developing health passport apps

Man holding a passport with COVID-19 sign stamped onto a white paper. SITA has launched HealthProtect for airlines to share health information. Source: SITA
Man holding a passport with COVID-19 sign stamped onto a white paper. SITA has launched HealthProtect for airlines to share health information. Source: SITA

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Atlanta firm among those competing

Travel technology companies are developing health passport apps to allow travelers to verify test results or vaccinations for international flights.

Tech firms, industry associations and airlines around the world have been developing and trying out different digital passport options to ease the process of complying with COVID-19 health requirements for travel.

SITA, a travel technology firm with its U.S. offices in Atlanta, said Thursday it has started trials of technology enabling airlines and passengers to share COVID-19 test results or vaccination history with authorities to meet government requirements. It has tested it with travelers to the United Arab Emirates and plans for a trial at Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy.

SITA says its Health Protect technology has potential to “bridge the gap between airlines resuming normal operations and governments’ strong focus on keeping control of COVID-19,” according to a written statement from David Lavorel, SITA CEO of airports and borders.

A new U.S. requirement for a negative COVID-19 test for international travel to the United States took effect Jan. 26.

Atlanta-based Delta has said it plans to allow customers to upload documents verifying COVID-19 test results via the airline’s website, and to streamline its online booking process including compliance with COVID-19 travel requirements.

Airline and travel industry officials have raised concerns about a potential federal testing requirement for U.S. domestic travel. The industry group Airlines for America said it believes a domestic travel testing requirement is unwarranted because the risk of transmission on a plane is low, and that such a mandate would require a 42% increase in daily testing capacity nationwide.

International travel requirements vary by country and change frequently as governments respond to the fluctuations in coronavirus cases and variants.

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Other notable passport app options

IATA Travel Pass: The International Air Transport Association is partnering with Emirates and Etihad Airways to launch the app. The group said Copa Airlines and the government of Panama will conduct a trial of the technology, which allows passengers to verify that their test or vaccinations meet regulations required abroad. It can also help passengers to find international travel requirements information, test centers and labs while traveling, and allows authorized labs and test centers to send test results or vaccination certificates.

CommonPass: Developed by a nonprofit public trust, its network includes United, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and Airports Council International. It is aimed at letting travelers demonstrate their health status while protecting their data privacy. The CommonPass was tested on United flights last fall.

(The SITA software is designed to integrate with CommonPass and the IATA Travel Pass, as well as other travel pass systems.)

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