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8 Mar, 2021 13:01

‘Covid-19 passport’ trials: Singapore Airlines to test digital health ID for flights to London

‘Covid-19 passport’ trials: Singapore Airlines to test digital health ID for flights to London

Singapore Airlines has announced that its flights to London will begin using a mobile app that verifies passengers’ Covid-19 status, as part of a pilot program for a health passport that could be adopted around the world.

The company will test the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass mobile application on flights from Singapore to London between March 15-28. The app allows travelers to create a digital ID consisting of a photograph and passport details. Passengers will be asked to visit one of seven participating clinics in Singapore that can provide the necessary digital certification used by the app. 

Participants will need to present their digital ID, as well as a physical copy of their Covid-19 test results, to check-in staff before being allowed on the plane. The airline billed the app as a fast and convenient way to store health details while stressing that the data is secure and not kept in any central database. 

If deemed successful, the pilot program will allow for the integration of the Travel Pass system into Singapore Airlines’ mobile app starting later this year, with the expectation that it will be used for all flights with the carrier. 

The company began the first phase of its health certification trials in December. Passengers traveling from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur to Singapore were asked to receive Covid-19 tests and were then given QR codes, which were presented at check-in. 

In a press release announcing the first phase of the trials, the airline said that Covid-19 tests and vaccinations will be “an integral part” of air travel going forward and that a new digital health ID would create a “more seamless experience” for customers amid “the new normal.” In the future, Travel Pass will also be able to verify vaccination status. 

The IATA announced in November that it was working on the app as a way to reboot international travel amid the pandemic. Several airlines have already expressed support for the digital ID, including Qantas Airways, which said it plans to make proof of Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all international passengers traveling to and from Australia. The company’s CEO, Alan Joyce, also speculated that digital health passports would become a requirement worldwide.

The decision to pilot the app on flights to London will likely raise eyebrows in the UK, where there is currently a heated debate about plans to introduce a health passport for international travel. Former prime minister Tony Blair has been a vocal promoter of the scheme, arguing that the creation of a digital ID showing Covid-19 status was “inevitable” and that it would help lift restrictions on movement. A petition calling for the UK to reject the idea of issuing Covid-19 passports has garnered more than 270,000 signatures at the time of writing. 

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