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Explained | What is IATA’s Travel Pass that IndiGo has signed up for, how does it work and other questions answered

IndiGo is the only Indian airline, so far, to have signed up for the trial in which more than 40 international airlines are participating. The International Air Transport Association says the pass will facilitate international travel without the need to quarantine

August 05, 2021 / 10:31 AM IST

India’s biggest air carrier IndiGo has partnered with the International Air Transport Association for a trial of IATA’s “digital passport” initiative called Travel Pass, the first Indian airline to do so.

The idea is to facilitate international travel hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak and restrictions placed by countries to curb infections. What does this Pass do, how will it help a flyer and how will it work? Here are some answers:

What is IATA’s Travel Pass?

IATA, a global body representing more than 250 airlines, has come up with the Travel Pass to facilitate international travel in the post coronavirus period. The aim is to help governments open borders to travellers without the need to quarantine, which is time-consuming and can be expensive as well.

Besides helping flyers, the Pass is also meant to instil a sense of confidence in governments to open up international travel by mitigating the fear of “importing COVID-19”. This can be done by having accurate information about passengers’ coronavirus status.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Also read: DGCA extends ban on international flights till August 31

How will the pass work?

The pass is a mobile app that informs passengers about the tests, vaccines and other measures they need to take ahead of their travel. It has details on where they can get tested and also allows them to share their results as well as vaccination status with the authorities in a verifiable and safe manner.

The pass will provide governments the means to verify the authenticity of tests or vaccinations and identify those presenting their certificates. It will help airlines provide information on test requirements and ensure that a passenger meets the travel guidelines of their destination.

The pass will help laboratories to issue certificates that will be recognised by governments. The data collated by IATA will provide information on test requirements and ways to securely share the results and certificates with airlines as well as border authorities.

Also read: IndiGo’s 15th anniversary—an exemplar of endurance in the graveyard of airlines

Why IndiGo is the only Indian airline participating in the pilot?

The trial is open to all airlines. On August 3, IndiGo announced it had partnered with IATA to become the first Indian airline to launch the pilot.

How will the Travel Pass help flyers?

The Travel Pass will help passengers to store and manage their verified certificates for COVID-19 tests as well as vaccines. Instead of carrying a paper certificate, a passenger can have these on the mobile phone. It is more secure and efficient than current paper processes used for managing health requirements (the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, for example). This is important given the potentially enormous scale of testing or vaccine verifications that will be needed.

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When will the pass be launched?

IndiGo hopes to launch the IATA Travel Pass in the third week of August on two of its international routes—Male and Doha. British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Emirates and Turkish are among more than 40 airlines that are part of the pass trial.

Will this help the aviation industry?

IATA says its Travel Pass will help give governments the confidence to reopen borders without quarantine. To do so, governments need to be confident that they are not importing Covid. “Testing, or proof of vaccine, is the solution. IATA Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of testing or vaccination information between governments, airlines, laboratories and travellers which will guarantee the traveller’s COVID-19 status,” IATA says.

But in India, since all borders are closed and international flights are only being operated under an air bubble arrangement, gains for IndiGo are expected to be limited.

However, with over 40 airlines part of the pilot, it opens up avenues for seamless travel for IndiGo passengers with carriers that have an interline agreement with the Indian carrier.

An interline agreement is a voluntary commercial agreement between various airlines for passengers requiring multiple flights on multiple airlines. Such agreements allow passengers to hop flights between airlines without gathering their bags or checking in again.

How effective will the pass be for Indian carriers and flyers?

It is not clear who will pay for the various tests and certificates needed for international travel. Will it be the government, the airlines or the passengers? Given that the Indian aviation market is price-sensitive, if flyers are expected to pay for the tests and vaccinations, there are chances that a section may opt against flying because of the costs involved.
Ashwini Phadnis Senior journalist based in New Delhi
first published: Aug 5, 2021 10:31 am

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