Qatar Airways’ CEO Sees Vaccine Passports Becoming Mandated

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker expects to see vaccine passports becoming mandatory for international travel. He cites vaccine passports as being key to restoring confidence in air travel once again. While they will be mandatory initially, their use could begin to wane once the world manages to control the pandemic.

Qatar Airways A350
Qatar Airways has already begun testing travel pass applications to eventually integrate vaccine passports. Photo: Qatar Airways

Coming soon

Speaking from the world’s first fully vaccinated flight, Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker explained his views about the use of vaccine passports. Speaking to CNBC, he said that vaccine passports will be needed to fly in the short term since they are key to countries reopening their borders and for travelers to return.

Considering their importance, vaccine passports are also likely to be mandatory when travel first restarts. This is to boost confidence among both governments and the passengers actually traveling, which will be critical to get people moving once again. This will at least be the case initially or until the world-at-large manages to control the pandemic or finds effective treatments, according to Al Baker.

Qatar Airways A350-1000
Qatar Airways is betting big on a summer recovery to revive its fortunes and increase passenger numbers. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

As the name suggests, vaccine passports allow travelers to prove their vaccination status. These “passports,” which can be digital too, contain information about which vaccine you have taken when the doses were given, and if enough time has passed to be considered immune.

Who runs it?

While airlines worldwide have signaled an interest in using vaccine passports, questions remain over who will run the system. Mr. Al Baker said that he thinks the initiative should be led by the IATA (International Air Transport Association). IATA has long been working on its “Travel Pass” initiative and has begun testing the application with airlines globally.

Qatar Airways is one of many airlines currently testing the Travel Pass and plans to integrate the app into its travel network. Additionally, Singapore Airlines announced this week that it would accept the IATA Travel Pass from May, albeit only to prove negative test results.

travel pass
Qatar Airways has been testing IATA’s software since last month. Photo: Qatar Airways

However, governments and many airlines have been trailing their own health passports initiatives as well, creating confusion. Companies like CommonPass, VeriFly, and others have also created travel passes. Having a uniform approach to vaccine passports will be critical for countries globally to reopen their borders.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

The debate

While vaccine passports might be seen as the one-stop solution to reopening travel, it does have its critics. Many have spoken out against vaccine passports as being discriminatory and increasing inequality. The argument does hold weight. Only a handful of countries have vaccinated substantial parts of their populations and many have barely started inoculations.

The use of vaccine passports would exclude billions of potential travelers due to the lack of vaccine availability. However, supporters argue that despite the inequality, vaccine passports are crucial to helping economies survive. One more year without travelers could mean the end of many airlines and businesses around the world.

COVID-19 Vaccine
Vaccine passports face many several hurdles, including proving vaccinations using paper-based certificates. Photo: Getty Images

While it may not be perfect, vaccine passports are the only way to allow travel to restart safely and effectively for now.

What do you think about the future of vaccine passports? Should we begin using them or avoid them for now? Let us know in the comments.