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Waiting for the comeback... Health passes such as those from SITA and IATA should convince more fliers to return. Ditto with governments and airlines. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Passengers and airlines now have options with their COVID-19 'digital passports'. The technology firm SITA has launched ‘Health Protect’ – a platform that will help them as well as governments to share information on health tests or vaccinations needed ahead of the actual travel.

Successful trials have already been undertaken with travellers to the UAE. Fresh trials will soon start at Milan's Malpensa Airport.

The industry grouping IATA (International Air Transport Association) had earlier come out with 'Travel Pass' in a bid to speed up return to air travel for all.

“We’re excited for the potential of SITA Health Protect to bridge the gap between airlines resuming normal operations and governments' strong focus on keeping control of COVID-19,” said David Lavorel, CEO of Airports and Borders at SITA.

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Central to revival chances

As governments seek a way to resume safe and secure travel in the wake of COVID-19, the ability for passengers to share vital health information such as PCR test results or vaccination history with authorities is increasingly important. SITA said its platform would allow airlines and passengers to submit these required documents safely and securely in line with specific government requirements.

A key benefit is the ability to seamlessly integrate with multiple travel pass or ‘health passport’ schemes, thus bridging the gap between these schemes and aviation and border processes. Passengers without the required documentation - or considered high risk - will be unable to check in for their flight, ensuring they do not travel to the airport.

At the airport, Health Protect integrates with existing airport passenger processing systems to verify the status of the passenger at each point in the process using SITA's 'Flex' touchless passenger flow monitoring.

IATA pass

IATA's ‘Travel Pass’ is a standardized solution to validate and authenticate all country regulations regarding COVID-19 passenger requirements. The go-live date for the first version of the app is March 1 - the next iteration of the platform with additional functionality will be launched in April. (It can be found on iOS and Play Store.)

High ratings

Meantime, UAE’s top airlines have been recognized for strictly following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Emirates and Etihad Airways have been rated high by rating firm for compliance on safety measures against COVID-19. Both carriers were included in the list of ‘Top 20 safest airlines for 2021’.

Sharjah’s budget carrier Air Arabia made it to the list of Top 10 safest low-cost airlines.

Touchless movements

Last week, Emirates said its self-check-in and bag drop kiosks at Dubai International airport could now be operated by passengers through their phones. The kiosks allow customers to check-in, receive their boarding pass, choose seats on board, and drop off their bags. New services have also been added to allow passengers to make payments for ancillary purchases, such as additional baggage allowance, directly at the kiosks.

UAE airlines were also among the first to offer COVID-19 insurance coverage.