Vaccine passports – key to reviving aviation industry

September 15, 2021 | 12:08
After a period of “freezing over” for the aviation industry, the introduction of vaccine passports could help reopen the flight network as soon as possible.

Vaccine passports are digital documents certifying that a person has either been fully vaccinated (usually with two doses) according to recommendations of experts and authorities, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19.

One of the vaccine passports being widely piloted in the world is the IATA Travel Pass. This is a digital health wallet developed by the International Aviation Association (IATA) that allows passengers to travel safely between countries while complying with the immigration requirements of authorities and governments at the destination.

Vaccine passport - a key to reviving the aviation industry
The IATA Travel Pass is being piloted by nearly 60 airlines in the world

According to the IATA website, the number of countries and airlines that accept and trial the IATA Electronic Health Passport is increasing with time. Specifically, nearly 60 airlines around the world have announced the IATA Travel Pass trial, including Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airlines, and Emirates, among others.

In particular, the General Department of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia has officially accepted the IATA Travel Pass in certifying passengers' COVID-19 test results before the flights starting from September 30. Prior to Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Panama had accepted the IATA Travel Pass.

According to IATA, the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate and the UK NHS COIVD-19 Pass can be uploaded to the IATA Travel Pass and used as proof of COIVD-19 vaccinations for passengers to travel.

Nick Careen, IATA senior vice president of Airport Operations, Passengers, Cargo, and Security, said that the pilot of the IATA Travel Pass marks an important milestone in the reopening of the international aviation market.

In Vietnam, since the beginning of 2021, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has requested permission from the Ministry of Transport (MoT) and the prime minister to apply the IATA Travel Pass to soon reopen the international flight network.

The application of green passports

In addition to the IATA Travel Pass, businesses and experts in Vietnam are proposing to use green passports to recover domestic tourism. At the same time, the CAAV has sent a report to the MoT for approval of operating regular domestic routes operation during the period of pandemic prevention.

Specifically, the research team of the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) has just proposed a pilot programme for green passports in Vietnam to foster domestic travel.

Vaccine passport - a key to reviving the aviation industry
Bamboo Airways is getting ready for a test flight right in September 2021. Photo: Luu Ngoc Tuan

According to the leader of the TAB, the green passport has the same features as a vaccine passport: it can be digital or paper format with a QR code that certifies one's COVID-19 test results (both PCR and antigen testing) or confirmation of recovery after being infected with COVID-19.

In addition, the TAB's research team also proposes that the government negotiate bilaterally or multilaterally with countries and territories around the world to sign an agreement allowing Vietnamese citizens to use green passports for entry.

Referring to this issue, Dr. Luong Hoai Nam, a travel and aviation expert, said that vaccine passports have become a global trend and Vietnam is following this tendency.

According to statistics, as of September 12, more than 29.3 million doses of vaccines have been used, with more than 4.5 million people have received two doses. Therefore, many experts perceive that the application of vaccine passports for the reopening of the domestic aviation-tourism market should be accelerated, aiming toward the international market.

Aviation "rescue"

In Vietnam, the first test flight of the vaccine passport successfully landed at Van Don International Airport, Quang Ninh at the beginning of September. This heralds the prospect of gradually reopening routes and reviving the aviation industry in the near future.

Truong Phuong Thanh, deputy general director of Bamboo Airways, one of the units that are ready for the trial of the vaccine passport, said: "To gear up the application of vaccine passport, relevant authorities are expected to soon come up with a formal regulatory framework for the implementation of vaccine passports; a specific, harmonised, and synchronised testing process; and unified coordination between ministries, agencies, authorities, and airlines."

He added that the airline has been working closely with the IATA, authorities, and member units to deploy the application of vaccine passports. Currently, Bamboo Airways is finalising procedures and preparing for the test flight right in September 2021.

In the context of a quick and synchronised vaccination process around the world including Vietnam, the vaccine passport is expected to promote safe and seamless travel.

By Thien Huong

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