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African airlines are testing their own Covid-19 passport

LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines are testing a new digital Covid-19 passport system.The digital health passport allows travellers and airport authorities to authenticate Covid-19 test certificates prior to departure.

The Trusted Travel Pass pilot programme was developed by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as digital health passports look likely to become a standard requirement for international travel.

A global travel pass developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is currently being trialled by several leading international airlines. The pass allows travellers to create a digital copy of their passports and receive verified information on country-specific travel requirements via an app.

These requirements will inform what testing or vaccination procedures need to be followed prior to departure.

Once these requirements are met, confirmation is provided in the form of a unique QR code which can be scanned by the relevant health authorities. Apart from creating a universal authentication standard, the pass aims to also simplify check-in processes for both travellers and airline staff.

The African Union and Africa CDC launched their own version of the health passport to boost confidence in safe air travel across the continent. Adopting the same principals and processes used by IATA, the Trusted Travel Pass is currently being tested in AU Member States.

Passengers on Kenya Airways or Ethiopian Airlines flights are encouraged – but not yet forced – to use the Trusted Travel Pass.

The online portal, which allows passengers to upload their Covid-19 test and vaccine results to receive a QR code, is accessible via desktop and mobile phone but has not yet been rolled out as an app. Features of the Trusted Travel Pass include:

  • Signing up to create a traveller profile and itinerary
  • Listing travel requirements and restrictions applicable to the destination country
  • Providing a database of authorised Covid-19 testing facilities 
  • Generating a Trusted Testing Code (TT Code) and Travel Code (TC) based on tests completed and vaccines administered by registered health services.

“We are pleased to have introduced a digital platform that will be pivotal in increasing the number of passengers while making air travel safer,” says Getinet Tadesse, Ethiopian Airlines’ Chief Information Officer. “The solution is capable of addressing passengers’ travel needs during [the] Covid -19 pandemic as it helps them validate their test and vaccination documents before departure.”

Other African airlines are expected to join the pilot programme, according to John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC.

“To coordinate our air, sea and land movement on the continent, all countries have to have a similar understanding of what we have to do and harmonise that,” adds Nkengasong. 

Should the pilot programme be a success, the pass is expected to be rolled out to all AU member states and airlines as a mandatory compliance protocol. 

“Kenya Airways as an AU and Africa CDC partner will also bring invaluable input and feedback to improve the Trusted Travel Pass programme making the ground-breaking step in enabling safe international travel during the pandemic as convenient as possible… giving people the boost of confidence that they are meeting all Covid-19 entry requirements by governments,” said Julius Thairu, Acting Chief Commercial Officer at Kenya Airways, which was the first carrier to adopt the pass on 6 March.

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