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Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: If you have been craving a travel experience after more than a year of travel restrictions, you may have heard about the ‘vaccine passport’. But what is the COVID-19 vaccine passport exactly, and how will it make travelling easier and safer for passengers? Here is all you need to know.

IATA Travel Pass

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it will soon be launching the IATA Travel Pass, which is a smartphone app, which provides a digital platform to assist travellers before, during, or after the flight. According to the IATA website, this is expected to be done in the following ways:

1. Receive latest travel restriction guidelines – the app will be updated with the latest COVID-19 restrictions for the country the passenger is travelling to.

2. Registration of test results and vaccine status – if you are fully vaccinated, the app will receive the information from the official health authorities in the country, along with the latest results for your COVID-19 test.

3. Create a ‘digital passport’ – the app is expected to enable passengers to create a ‘digital passport’ and verify that their test or vaccination meets the regulations of their country of destination and share the test or vaccination certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.

When will the Travel Pass launch?

The IATA Travel Pass is still being trialled by airlines across the world. According to press releases issued by Emirates airlines and Etihad on January 19, 2021, the two UAE-based airlines were among the first globally to launch the IATA Travel Pass.

Etihad Airlines said that the Travel Pass will initially be offered to passengers on selected flights from Abu Dhabi in the first quarter of 2021. If successful, the pass will be extended to other destinations on the Etihad network.

According to Emirates Airlines, prior to a full roll out, the airline will implement Phase 1 of the Travel Pass in Dubai for the validation of COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests before departure. In this initial phase, expected to begin soon, Emirates customers travelling from Dubai will be able to share their COVID-19 test status directly with the airline even before reaching the airport through the app, which will then auto-populate the details on the check-in system.

On February 25, Emirates also announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which aims to position Dubai as one of the first cities in the world to implement digital verification of traveller medical records related to COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

So, while the vaccine passport is still in its trial stage, once launched for all passengers, it is expected to securely provide all your COVID-19 related documentation in one place.