Virgin Atlantic Begins Accepting IATA’s Health Passport

Virgin Atlantic has begun to accept IATA’s health passport known as Travel Pass. The application allows passengers to securely transmit their COVID-19 status to the airline ahead of travel. With the launch, Virgin Atlantic has become the first British airline to start using the technology, while British Airways is understood to be actively exploring it.

Virgin Atlantic, IATA, Travel Pass
Virgin Atlantic operated its first flight with IATA’s Travel Pass. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Alvin Man – Simple Flying

While vaccines have now been around for the past four months, very few airlines are currently accepting them for travel. Most still require passengers to be in possession of a negative COVID-19 test. To streamline the recognition of tests, several solutions are being explored by multiple stakeholders.

First IATA Travel Pass flight

Slowly more and more airlines are launching their trials of IATA’s travel pass. Virgin Atlantic became the latest airline to test the software with flight VS131 from London Heathrow to Barbados earlier today.

The aircraft departed at 10:24, with passengers traveling for essential reasons given the UK’s current travel ban. Virgin Atlantic told Simple Flying that 70 passengers were onboard the flight. The flight was operated by a Boeing 787, which seats 258 when full. As such, the flight operated with a load factor of 27%.

ATA Travel Pass
Passengers can use the app to show proof of testing or vaccination when passing through immigration. Photo: IATA

The airline says that the use of the IATA Travel Pass will streamline journies once the skies reopen. However, England is yet to commit to reopening travel on May 17th. Commenting on the trial, Corneel Koster, who is the Chief Customer & Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, said,

“We urge the UK Government to confirm that our customers can use digital apps and that these will be accepted at the UK border. The current paper-only-based processes will not be viable as customer numbers increase.”

Currently, passengers arriving at the UK border are required to present a paper passenger locator form, indicating where the passenger will be staying upon arrival, among other things. Virgin Atlantic has an agreement with the Barbados Authorities that the IATA Travel Pass will be accepted to prove a passenger’s COVID status.

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Another new Travel Pass airline

While Virgin Atlantic has become the latest airline to start using Travel Pass, another airline today signed up for the trial. Neos will become the first Italian airline to begin trying the health passport solution.

Virgin Atlantic Begins Accepting IATA’s Health Passport
Neos was announced as another airline set to trial IATA’s Travel Pass. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

The travel pass was first trialed by Singapore Airlines on flights to London. Today at least 25 airlines are using the technology. However, most are only trialing it on a handful of routes. Other apps are also being developed by third parties, such as the CommonPass solution being trialed by ANA and VeriFLY being trialed by Alaska Airlines. Some carriers, such as British Airways, have even launched their own technologies.

What do you make of Virgin’s IATA health passport trial? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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