The International Air Transport Association (Iata) is all set to roll out its digital travel pass app within the next few weeks, its director-general Willie Walsh said on Thursday.
Addressing an online media conference, Walsh said the app received "very positive" feedback from carriers in the Middle East and also across the world, and confirmed that several regional and global carriers would soon launch the digital travel pass for Covid-19 test results and vaccine certification.
Emirates, Etihad Airways, Saudia and Gulf Air are among the regional airlines conducting trials of the Iata Travel Pass on select routes. So far, about 60,000 people have registered to test the system.
The travel pass has so far received very positive feedback. "We expect it to go live out of the testing mode in the next couple of weeks," Walsh said.
The travel pass is a mobile app that would enable passengers to create a digital passport to provide proof of their testing and vaccination history that can be shared with airlines and immigration officials.
Last month, EU leaders welcomed the introduction of a bloc-wide Covid-19 pass that they hope will unlock a summer surge in tourism.
The rollout of the mobile app comes as Iata intensified its call to governments to allow the integration of digital Covid certificates into passenger applications, such as its Travel Pass, to relieve pressure on airports and immigration check-points as the number of travellers increases.
Walsh lashed out at attempts by airports and suppliers in the Middle East and Africa region to recover losses incurred during the pandemic through hefty increases in charges.
He urged governments not to approve higher charges during tough times, reiterating his stance that the industry cannot afford to see increased cost being imposed on airlines that are in “an extremely fragile financial position today”.
In April, Iata decried the monopolistic pricing by suppliers in some parts of the world, including London's Heathrow airport, and surged governments to put an end to such pricing behaviour by some airports and others in the aviation supply chain.
Walsh described the recent move to increase charges as “very disappointing at a time when the industry hopes for a quick restart”. Such hikes, he said would discourage airlines from increasing or recovering the capacity that they had in the market.
The Iata chief called for sensible responses from industry suppliers including air traffic control and airport ground handling.
Kamil Al Awadhi, Iata's regional vice-president for Africa and the Middle East, said the airline body is trying to stop such planned fee increases elsewhere.
“It is an irresponsible action that needs to be discouraged at a time when airlines are gasping for air," Al Awadhi said.
He was also critical of the big mark-ups that providers charge passengers on PCR tests, making the cost of travel prohibitive for large families. In some African countries, a PCR test costs as much as $400, Al Awadhi noted.
Expensive PCR tests could dissuade travellers from booking flights and hurt airlines' recovery. According to Iata, a PCR test would increase the cost of an average airfare by 45 to 90 per cent on a one-way ticket, with costs ballooning for two PCR tests on a return trip. This could severely impact family travel.