Are you willing to give up some medical information in order to travel? Would you share vaccination status in order to enter another country? While most details of this is still (pardon the pun) up in the air, I’ve explored one possible solution that could be a way for airlines to manage this information as countries begin opening up to foreign tourists. Thankfully the IATA Travel Pass seems to keep privacy in mind by design.
Unfortunately, there is not yet any sort of universal agreement for a system to track COVID-19 vaccination or test results for travelers. One possible solution is the IATA Travel Pass, from the airline trade association. Most travelers don’t interact with IATA directly, but their Timatic system is what airlines use to verify travelers meet document requirements. United allows public access of these requirements on their website. Several airlines have or soon will run trials using the IATA Travel Pass system.
IATA Travel Pass
While this sounds good, until it is implemented, it is difficult to predict exactly how it will work. Currently, the United States is are doing pretty well with the vaccine rollout. But to prove vaccination status, there is currently a very low tech solution, a piece of paper. Systems like this can/do work, but likely with much risk of fraud. When I visited Ghana some years ago, I had to prove I had received a Yellow Fever vaccine. That vaccination record is still in my travel wallet. But I’ve seen multiple stories of people paying a bribe for a “vaccination card” to gain entry into places that require it, rather than actually getting the shot. I’m sure this is a concern with COVID. Hopefully technology can help avoid similar fraud.
Various airlines have trialed IATAs solution, and there are other systems other airlines have evaluated. VeriFLY is used by American Airlines.
Here is a video describing the IATA Travel Pass. This describes it quite well. It seems like a relatively secure solution that can hopefully facilitate travel for people as we move through the pandemic.
Will the vaccinated get priority to travel?
Of course, this information is constantly changing. As of today, Iceland is open to vaccinated travelers, even Americans, who are otherwise currently forbidden from entering most European countries. Will this be a template for other countries? I’m hopeful, but maybe not optimistic. I’ve talked about countless cancelled trips of my own from the last year. Our next planned family trip is for this summer, on a crazy cheap deal for flights to Ireland. Still months away, so I’m hoping it will be possible, but as of today, the quarantine requirement is is longer than our planned trip, so that’s a no go.
What about children? Currently those under 16 are not eligible for vaccination. Trials are ongoing, but it is unclear when children will be eligible to be vaccinated. Even if countries would let us in post-vaccination, what about our daughter who almost certainly won’t be? In the case of Ireland, children under 7 are not subject to pre-arrival testing, but what about if/when they open up to non-essential travel?
As with many things, there are still many more questions than answers. But as an optimist and a traveler with a long overdue case of wanderlust, I’m hopeful for at least a few passport stamps in 2021. I’m happy to upload my passport and vaccination (and if necessary, testing) information into the IATA Travel Pass or another system if required in order to travel. What about you?