Air NZ to trial digital health passport for safer travel during Covid-19

Air New Zealand is to trial a digital travel pass which aims to make international travel safer and easier during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The national carrier will trial the digital “Travel Pass” app developed by International Air Transport Association on its Auckland-Sydney route in April. The app was launched by the airline lobby group in late 2020 and is being trialled by other airlines including Singapore Airlines and Emirates.

The app allows travellers to securely store and present information related to Covid-19 tests, as well as their vaccination status. The travel industry hopes the Travel Pass will give governments the confidence to re-open borders, and passengers the confidence to travel.

”Once borders reopen, travel is going to look very different, with customers’ health data needing to be verified at check-in,” said Air New Zealand chief digital officer Jennifer Sepull.

“It’s essentially like having a digital health certificate that can be easily and securely shared with airlines. This will give customers peace of mind that they meet all travel requirements for the different countries around the world before they even get to the airport.”

The trial will run for three weeks once the app hits store shelves in April and both aircrew and customers will be invited to join the trial. The airline is in talks with government agencies about options for validation of testing and vaccination.

Air NZ said customers will be able to create a digital health wallet linked to their e-passport. Once travellers have been tested and/or vaccinated, labs will securely send data to the individual’s app. It then checks requirements for travel against the data and customers who meet those travel requirements will be given the green tick to travel.

Analysts said that while the Travel App was a positive step, the real game changer for a rebound in international travel is widespread vaccinations.

On Friday, 25 health professionals were the first in the country to be given the vaccine. They then began vaccinating high-risk border workers from Saturday as part of the Government’s plan to vaccinate 12,000 managed isolation, quarantine and border workers within two to three weeks.

The vaccination programme is to be rolled out in Wellington on Monday and Christchurch on Wednesday. It is expected to take a year to roll out the immunisation programme across the country.