Avianca Set To Use IATA Travel Pass Health Passport

Avianca has become the latest airline to trial IATA’s popular travel pass. The travel pass acts as a digital health passport that allows travelers to store, manage, consult and verify the results of COVID-19 tests on their smartphone.

Avianca will trial IATA’s travel pass on flights between Bogota and Miami. Photo: Getty Images

Avianca says the travel pass trial is not only about making flying more hassle-free; it is about protecting the health and wellbeing of passengers and crew.

“For us, it is key to be able to simplify the requirements associated with COVID-19 for international travel,” says Michael Ruplitsch, Avianca’s Chief Information Officer.

The travel pass trial will occur on Avianca’s flights between Bogota and Miami. Avianca is operating around 21 return services a week between Bogota and Miami this summer. Once the airline irons out any kinks, the travel pass will get rolled out on other routes.

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IATA pushes for wider use of travel passes to open up international travel

IATA, a trade group representing airlines worldwide, has pushed for the widespread use of digital health passports to restart international travel. The industry group argues vaccinated travelers should have unrestricted access to travel.

“There is increasing scientific evidence that vaccination is not only protecting people but also dramatically reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This is bringing us closer to a world where vaccination and testing enables the freedom to travel without quarantine,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General

Polling by IATA reveals strong public support for digital health passports like IATA’s own travel pass. 89% of 4,700 poll respondents across 11 countries supported globally standardized COVID-19 test or vaccination certifications. 84% of respondents want a globally recognized smartphone app to manage their travel health credentials.

IATA argues the ability to cross borders using a digital health pass smoothly is a strong motivating factor to get vaccinated.

“We are pleased that Avianca has chosen to pilot with IATA Travel Pass,” Peter Cerdá, IATA Regional Vice President for the Americas, said in a statement. “The IATA Travel Pass allows governments to be confident that passengers have met health requirements, streamlines this process, simplifies the traveler experience, and encourages travel.”

IATA wants to use travel passes to open up international travel. Photo: IATA

Travel pass helps smooth the way for Avianca and its passengers

Like many other airlines, Avianca is looking for some clear air after a tough 12 months. The Colombian airline sought bankruptcy protection last May and has been trying to exit ever since. Avianca posted a loss of US1.9 billion in 2020.

Two years ago, Avianca was operating nearly 500 flights a day from its El Dorado International Airport base in Bogota. Avianca now operates about half that number of flights. However, this is a massive improvement on 12 months ago when Avianca only flew a handful of flights each day. As part of the bankruptcy process, Avianca aims to become a smaller airline. Invariably, one outcome of this is fewer flights.

The airline says trialing IATA’s travel pass is one response to the challenges Avianca and its passengers now face.

“The use of this application will not have any additional cost and, on the contrary, it will result in benefits,” said Mr Ruplitsch.

The widespread rollout of travel passes cannot wait, says IATA’s Willie Walsh. Photo: IATA

At IATA, there is a sense of urgency about digital health passports. “This cannot wait,” says Willie Walsh. IATA welcomes Avianca’s trial, saying it will streamline the travel experience for Avianca passengers flying between Bogota and Miami. But the airline industry group is calling for a more uniform approach to making international travel easier for vaccinated travelers. IATA’s Director-General says;

“More and more people are being vaccinated. More borders are opening. Booking patterns tell us that pent-up demand is at extremely high levels. But governments and the competent authorities are acting in isolation and moving far too slowly. A smooth restart is still possible. But governments need to understand the urgency and act fast.”