Aviation News

Virgin Atlantic begins trials of IATA Travel Pass

Virgin Atlantic has begun trials of IATA Travel Pass on flights to Barbados.

For a period of one-month, Virgin Atlantic will trial the IATA Travel Pass on London Heathrow-Barbados services.

1st successful trial conducted

Passengers on flight VS131, travelling for permitted reasons from London Heathrow to Barbados, were invited to download the mobile application and participate in the successful first trial flight, which departed just ahead of schedule at 10.24am from Terminal 2 at London Heathrow.

The trials were scheduled to begin on 16th April but were temporarily postponed due to the recent closure of Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados, as a result of ash fall caused by the eruption of La Soufrière volcano on the island of St Vincent. Barbados’ main airport has now reopened.

Virgin Atlantic says that the ‘customers’ experience at Heathrow will be swift and efficient, removing paper-based Covid-19 documentation with a digital ‘one stop shop’ to collect, store and verify documents in the secure app.’

The London-based airline is running these trials in close collaboration with the Government of Barbados. The airline says that it continues to engage with the United Kingdom government enable the trial to expand and accommodate passengers arriving at the UK border on Barbados-London Heathrow flights.

How to participate?

To participate in this trial, passengers must obtain their negative PCR COVID-19 test at one of several participating labs. These include Screen4 testing facilities located in Barnsley, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cirencester, Harlow, London (Hammersmith) and Manchester; and Collinson facilities at Heathrow Airport (Terminals 2 & 5), London City Airport, Gatwick Airport (APH Parking), London Stansted Airport, London Luton Airport, O2 Arena (Car Park 1), East Midlands Airport (Short Stay Car Park) and Manchester Airport (T1 Short Stay Car Park). Virgin Atlantic adds that participating lab list will grow in the near future.

Barbados presently requires all arrivals to present a negative PCR test taken within 3 days of departure followed by a second PCR test following five days of quarantine in approved accommodation. Effective 8th May, fully vaccinated travellers will be able to take this second test on the day of arrival.

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer & Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic, said:

Our innovative trial with the IATA Travel Pass and the Government of Barbados supports a smooth and streamlined experience, helping our customers to fly safe and well and navigate new travel requirements from the palm of their hands. When international restarts at scale; rapid, affordable testing and effective digital proof of Covid-19 credentials based on global common standards will make journeys easier and provide greater confidence to book. 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. With its vaccination programme progressing well, there is also a clear opportunity to designate Barbados ‘green’ as part of the UK’s risk-based traffic light framework, to enable safe travel. We welcome progress towards the resumption of travel from 17 May, but consumers and industry need greater clarity on the green list timeline, criteria and countries, in order to prepare effectively.

Nick Careen, Senior Vice President Airport, Passenger, Cargo, Security, IATA, said:

A digital solution for health credentials is essential for travel while Covid-19 remains a risk. Managing the risk of importing Covid-19 cases using paper processes will be a hassle for passengers. It will be unmanageable for airlines, airports and border authorities. And it will leave the system vulnerable to fraud. The IATA Travel Pass trial with Virgin Atlantic and the Government of Barbados shows that governments can efficiently manage travel requirements with complete confidence in the identity of the passenger and the veracity of the travel credentials—importantly, avoiding long queues. As we continue the trial, we will maintain our engagement with the UK Authorities to demonstrate that the solution can deliver benefits at both ends of journey.

Lisa Cummins, Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Barbados, said:

COVID has taught us many things about how we transact business and those lessons include the reality that disruptive digital technologies are transforming our travel and tourism industry. We have to embrace technology that not only deals with the integration of travel and public health priorities but we also have to transform the entire travel experience and our airport experiences. The IATA Travel Pass and its globalization based on the important integration of the TIMATICS platform in our view represents an important plank in COVID era travel transformation. The pass treats to our dual imperatives of clear, transparent and unambiguous travel protocols and an investment in boosting traveller and local confidence. Barbados has recently published new travel protocols due for implementation on 8 May and is currently leading the Americas in an aggressive inoculation programme which has seen nearly 30% of our adult population vaccinated to date and aggressive management of COVID19. We have used geofencing technology in quarantine enforcement and online distribution of test results directly to mobile devices and this partnership with IATA is another layer of our COVID 19 management regime and we are looking forward to this trial.

What is IATA Travel Pass?

The IATA Travel Pass app enables passengers to receive COVID-19 test results and verify they are eligible to undertake their journey through an ‘OK to Travel’ status. The digital health verification app has been under development since last year, and over 20 airlines have signed up for trials in the coming weeks and months.

IATA Travel Pass will keep passengers in control of their data and facilitate the sharing of their test with airlines and authorities for travel. It will also make it convenient for passengers to manage travel documentation throughout their journey. 

Qatar Airways was the 1st airline in Middle East to trial the app while Singapore Airlines has also started the trials. Emirates has also started the trials while Etihad Airways is trialling this pass on flights to North America.

With this, Virgin Atlantic has become the 1st British airline to trial the IATA Travel Pass.

Featured image by Virgin Atlantic

What do you think of Virgin Atlantic’s trials of the IATA Travel Pass? Let me know in the comments section below.

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