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  • Writer's pictureDEAN NELSON (he/him) CRDE, LLD

Virgin Atlantic sets sights for the future of Travel with digital health integration

Virgin Atlantic has taken a major step forward towards the introduction of digital health passes by partnering with IATA Travel Pass and TrustAssure™️ to launch two separate, complementary trials to streamline customer journeys.

Starting from April 16, 2021 the airline will commence a one-month trial of the IATA Travel Pass on its popular London Heathrow-Barbados services, in close collaboration with the Government of Barbados, which will accept the Pass at its border. Customers travelling for permitted reasons on flights VS131 from London Heathrow to Barbados will be invited to participate in the trial by downloading the IATA Travel Pass on their smartphone. Using the app they can create a digital ID comprising their profile photo and passport information and upload their Covid-19 credentials, selecting relevant flight information.

The IATA Travel Pass is at the forefront of digital health pass solutions being developed, allowing customers to verify that they meet the health criteria needed to travel between certain countries, with evidence of a negative Covid-19 test. Future versions of the app will also incorporate vaccine records. The free app is currently being considered by governments around the world to support the restart of international travel at scale and Virgin Atlantic will seek approval from the UK Government to expand the trial, to accommodate customers arriving at the UK border on Barbados-Heathrow flights.

In further progress towards end-to-end digital health integration, from March 29th, 2021, customers travelling to Virgin Atlantic’s US destinations will be able to verify Covid-19 test results digitally, utilizing TrustAssure’s robust artificial intelligence (A.I.)-based solution. Each customer’s pre-departure test documentation can be securely uploaded via its mobile-optimized website, in advance of their flight, and validated using A.I., in less than two minutes. The technology has already proven extremely effective in development and trials by Virgin Atlantic’s Joint Venture partner, Delta Air Lines. Once confirmed, customers receive a QR code with a green verification, meaning they can proceed quickly through Check In.

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer & Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic, said:

“In parallel to the UK’s successful vaccination programme and accompanied by a risk-based, phased easing of restrictions, we can see a flightpath to soon allow the safe restart of international travel at scale, in time for summer. When the skies reopen; rapid, affordable testing combined with digital health integration will be vital to streamline and simplify the customer experience, make border health checks manageable and build consumer confidence. Governments, industry and technology companies need to work together to lead the adoption of digital solutions with global common standards that are accepted at borders.”
“Our Barbados trial with IATA Travel Pass is an exciting step towards a ‘digital health pass’ as we actively explore secure solutions to integrate testing, vaccination, health documents and locator forms into our customer journeys. Building on the success of the development by our partners Delta and TrustAssure and in line with our innovative spirit, we are also proud to join a partnership with CLX Health to deliver industry-leading A.I.-powered test verification for US-bound customers.”

The Hon. Senator Lisa Cummins, Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, said:

“Safe travel is integral to Barbados’ full return to tourism, and we welcome this progressive step which complements our already implemented public health protocols and programmes. Barbados travel protocols have included a negative Covid-19 test since last year, and we are currently leading the Caribbean in an aggressive inoculation programme which has seen nearly 30% of our adult population vaccinated to date."
“The IATA Travel Pass lends an extra element of safety to both our visitors and Barbadians, giving them the confidence that we are engaging in and promoting travel that protects us all. As we look ahead to the next few months, our intention is to create a new-look tourism industry that holistically reflects the new public health imperatives.”

IATA Travel Pass is a global interoperable solution based on open-source standards, which means it can be used as a stand-alone solution or integrated into airlines’ own apps to provide passengers with a seamless travel experience.

Interoperable, connected mobile solutions that enable digital proof of test status and vaccine status and completed health or passenger locator forms will be essential to globally meet dynamically changing, route-specific travel restrictions.

Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President Airport, Passenger, Cargo, Security said:

“Our priority is getting international flights back in the air, to support the thousands of people that work in aviation and its related industries, such as tourism. Health passes are the key to doing this safely. We are proud to partner with Virgin Atlantic and the Government of Barbados to trial IATA Travel Pass and demonstrate that this technology can securely, conveniently and efficiently help manage passenger travel health credentials."
“This trial comes at a critical time for the UK Government as it looks to map out a pathway to restart international aviation at scale though it's Global Travel Task Force. We look forward to working with Virgin Atlantic and the UK Government to pilot acceptance of Travel Pass at the UK Border and for the UK to be a global pioneer of this type of technology.”

The TrustAssure solution offers a simple traffic light validation system to support a swift, safe and seamless airport experience. A green response indicates the results are verified and a red result indicates there is further verification needed from Check In staff or that the test certification is not valid, for example if the test is not to the correct specification or taken outside the three-day window. Verification technology is supported by the TrustAssure Covid-19 Testing Labs Locator, which lets customers find convenient providers and filter results by destination before they travel.

Heather Field, Managing Partner AI Practice, TrustAssure, said:

“Assisting travellers in getting back to the skies has been at the forefront of our technology initiatives, and we are proud to be partnering with Virgin Atlantic. The first mile is helping passengers meet their destination requirements through our partnership with providers and test locations across the globe."
“The TrustAssure A.I.-powered, test verification solution provides a streamlined, pre-boarding process for both travellers and airline agents, going the last mile to ensure safe travel for everyone.”

Recognizing the importance to consumers that their personal health data is protected, both IATA Travel Pass and TrustAssure give users full control over how their personal information is shared, as the data is stored locally on their phone and not in any central database.

With Covid-19 pre-departure testing requirements for international travel set to remain in place for now, in parallel to global vaccine distribution, the digital health technology gives clarity to customers and removes the guesswork to travel.

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