Qatar Airways Becomes 1st Middle East Airline To Launch IATA Health Passport

Qatar Airways has announced its partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on the IATA Travel Pass, becoming the first airline in the Middle East to launch the new health passport. The Travel Pass will be introduced on the airline’s busy Doha-Istanbul route starting from March 11th, offering “a more safe, secure and contactless experience for travelers.”

Qatar A350
Qatar Airways will offer Travel Pass on its Doha-Istanbul flights to begin with. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Travel Pass comes to Qatar

IATA has developed its Travel Pass over the past few months, with several carriers, including Emirates and Etihad, participating in pilot schemes. Qatar Airways will now become the first Middle Eastern airline to use the digital health passport, albeit on a single route on a trial basis. The airline will invite passengers flying on its Doha-Istanbul route to use the app starting from March 11th.

The airline will be partnering with IATA, Qatar Ministry of Public Health, Primary Health Care Corporation and Hamad Medical Corporation for the trial. If successful, Qatar Airways will likely roll out the app on other routes.

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The new travel app offers a seamless, digital platform for validating health data and receiving vital information. Photo: Qatar Airways

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, said in a statement,

“We have confidence in the credibility of the IATA Travel Pass as the industry’s most reliable and innovative solution given its strong data privacy compliance, long-standing entry rules engine and ability to provide an end-to-end solution. We are proud to be at the forefront of trialling this platform, being one of the first globally and the first airline in the Middle East to trial the technology.”

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How will the Travel Pass work?

According to IATA, its Travel Pass will offer ‘a global and standardized solution to validate and authenticate all country regulations regarding COVID-19 passenger travel requirements.’ It will incorporate four ‘open-sourced and interoperable’ modules to accomplish this:

  • Health Requirements: Finding up-to-date travel and testing requirements.
  • Testing/Vaccination Centers: Test and vaccination centers at arrival/departure location.
  • Lab App: Receiving test/vaccination data from authorized labs.
  • Travel Pass App: Digital passport and certification for travel.

IATA promised a few weeks ago its Travel Pass is on the verge of going live. Some airlines are already announcing their participation, with many more expected to follow in the coming weeks.

Qatar Airways Becomes 1st Middle East Airline To Launch IATA Health Passport
Qatar Airways will be the first airline in the Middle East to implement the Travel Pass. Photo: Getty Images

Singapore Airlines will trial the app on its Singapore-London route from March 15th to March 28th. Several other airlines are rolling out trials, including Malaysia Airlines, Air New Zealand and airBaltic. At the same time, Qatar’s Middle-Eastern rivals Etihad and Emirates are expected to announce live trials soon.

A safe and secure digital health passport

There have been some valid concerns about digital health passports from all parties involved. For passengers, keeping private health data secure could be an issue in an age of cybercrime and data breaches. On the other hand, authorities have concerns about fraudulent certifications and forged documents.

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Qatar Airways joins other carriers in implementing the health passport app. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Mr. Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA, offered reassuring words on the integrity of the app, saying,

“All passengers using IATA Travel Pass can be confident that their data is protected and governments can trust that the “OK to travel” means both a genuine credential and a verified identity,”

Are you in favor of digital passports? Will they have a positive impact on the industry and give people the freedom to fly again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.