Both Etihad and Emirates will begin using a health passport to help passengers organize the COVID-19 testing documentation required to travel.

By Alison Fox
January 20, 2021
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A pair of airlines from the United Arab Emirates will launch a health passport developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in an effort to streamline travel and help passengers have required COVID-19 testing documentation all in one place.

Etihad Airways and Emirates became the first airlines in the world to partner with the IATA Travel Pass, a mobile app that will generate QR codes to share relevant information with authorities. Authorized labs and test centers will also be able to securely send medical information directly to passengers.

Etihad will launch its trial program during the first quarter of 2021 on flights from Abu Dhabi, the airline shared with Travel + Leisure this week. If deemed a success, the program will be expanded to other destinations within the airline's network.

"A high priority for Etihad is for our guests to have an easy, secure and efficient way to identify and verify their information," Mohammad Al Bulooki, the chief operating officer of the Etihad Aviation Group, told T+L in a statement. "Being one of the first airlines globally working with IATA as a pioneer partner on the IATA Travel Pass is a big step forward for Etihad's guests and for the industry." 

Credit: Courtesy of Emirates

Emirates expects to launch the app in April on flights out of Dubai to validate COVID-19 PCR tests before departure. Passengers will be able to share their test status before arriving at the airport and the app will then auto-populate their details in the check-in system, according to the carrier.

Adel Al Redha, Emirates' chief operating officer, said in a statement the app will "simplify and digitally transmit the information that is required by countries and governments into our airline systems, in a secure and efficient manner."

The IATA Travel Pass is one of several digital health passports — which could eventually evolve into vaccine passports — currently being rolled out around the world. Last week, American Airlines said it would launch its own health passport app for passengers flying with the carrier.

"Our aim is to give all governments the confidence to re-open borders to travellers based on verified vaccine and testing data," Nick Careen, IATA's senior vice president, airport, passenger, cargo and security, said in a statement.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.