Travel TechnologySingapore Airlines and FCM have joined IATA's digital programme to help travellers manage health documentations.

Could health passports be the answer for swifter immigration checks?

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Such solutions aim to build trust in ensuring authentic Covid-19 test results, supporting the industry’s safe and calibrated recovery from the pandemic. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ipopba

Both Singapore Airlines (SIA) and FCM Travel Solutions have hopped onboard the digital health passport bandwagon with a common goal of building trust in authentic Covid-19 test results, which will possibly enable faster immigration clearances and pave for the return of global air travel.

Airlines around the world have begun rolling digital health passports for travellers, but Singapore's national carrier is the first worldwide to base its new digital health verification process on the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass framework.

Passengers would first take the Covid-19 test at selected clinics in the aforementioned countries, and receive either digital or paper health certificates with a QR code. Once in Singapore, local authorities would verify these certificates with a mobile app — pre-fitted with IATA’s timatic registry which provides back-end information on Covid-19 testing and entry requirements.

SIA first trialled the service on 23 December 2020 for guests on flights from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. It may extend the digital health verification process to other cities in its network if the trials are successful, and also plans to integrate the process into its SingaporeAir mobile app from mid-2021.

"Covid-19 tests and vaccinations will be an integral part of air travel for the foreseeable future. We are offering a digital solution that allows the easy and secure verification of this information, and supports the industry’s safe and calibrated recovery from this pandemic," said JoAnn Tan, acting senior vice president marketing planning, Singapore Airlines.

IATA, similar, has repeatedly emphasised that this would be key to the global information infrastructure needed “to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveller identities”.

On the business travel front, FCM Travel Solutions has too launched a Digital Health Credential Programme, bringing together technologies to enable business travellers a safer, seamless and quicker journey back on the road.

“It is extremely important to partner with key private and public institutions to form an ecosystem that works together to operationalise cross-border travel. Many players in the travel industry from tourism organisations and airlines, to hotels and TMCs have embarked on digital health credential projects,” said Bertrand Saillet, managing director for FCM Travel Solutions in Asia.

First up is a partnership with Fullerton Health, which gives FCM customers access to affordable rates for Covid PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and serology tests.

The travel management company (TCM) has also partnered with a third-party technology provider to develop a FCM Travel Portal. Expected to launch this month, the portal will incorporate a Digital Health Wallet, displaying test certificates and vaccination results.

This Digital Health Wallet will act as a consolidated traveller profile system, getting FCM customers registered for the issuance of digital health certificates, and access to the list of accredited healthcare institutions that can do so. With specific Covid vaccines recently approved by various countries, travellers who choose to be vaccinated will also be able to include their vaccine status in the portal.

“The reality is that many challenges lie ahead of us," said Bertrand. "The solution may not be straightforward and would probably require many more months of discussion and tests, however the process is an essential part of this transition into developing a safe and responsible cross-border travel system that works.”

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