•Accept PCR results from approved labs only, NCAA directs carriers
Airlines are considering a standard ‘travel pass’ criteria for international air travellers in the COVID-19 era.
Though the technology-driven pass aims at an efficient travel experience, part of the conditions will include health credentials and COVID-19 vaccination.
Similarly, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) has directed that only results from accredited private laboratories should be accepted from outbound passengers effective March 22, 2021.
Hence, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has threatened to sanction airlines that accept polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results from unapproved laboratories.
The travel pass proposal made headway when the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport of the first traveller using the IATA travel pass app to manage travel health credentials.
Director-General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac, said the successful implementation of IATA travel pass in this trial with Singapore Airlines passengers demonstrated that technology could securely, conveniently and efficiently help travellers and governments to manage travel health credentials.
“The significance of this to re-starting international aviation cannot be overstated,” de Juniac said.
IATA, the clearinghouse of over 280 world airlines, noted that to gain maximum benefit from the travel pass, and avoid confusion and inconvenience for passengers, “the standardisation of test or vaccination certifications and their acceptance by authorities are key.”
A recent IATA poll of travellers found that 89 per cent agree with the need for global standards and 80 per cent are keen to use a mobile app to manage their travel credentials.
Recently, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) also moved the establishment of global standards for testing/vaccination certifications a step closer to reality.
IATA said that next, governments need to provide a digital COVID-19 test/vaccination certificate when people are tested or vaccinated so they have a verifiable document on their mobile device. This will ensure equivalence, mutual recognition, and acceptance of COVID-19 certifications for passengers when they travel globally.
“Today’s success is a big win for many parties. It gives travellers a one-stop-shop to help them comply with the new rules for travel. It shows that governments can efficiently manage these travel requirements with complete confidence in the identity of the passenger and the veracity of the travel credentials – importantly, avoiding long queues. And it’s a purpose-built means for airlines to manage the new travel requirements without drowning in inefficient and ineffective paper processes,” de Juniac said.
Acting Senior Vice President, Marketing Planning, Singapore Airlines, JoAnn Tan, said digital health credentials would be essential as borders reopen and travel restrictions get progressively lifted worldwide.
IATA’s Senior Vice President Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, Nick Careen, said airlines understand that their ground operations would grind to a halt if they have to manage COVID-19 travel requirements –test results or vaccine certifications – with paper documentation.
“The same is true for border authorities. The UK is ahead of other governments in mapping a way to re-starting international travel at scale. This real-life proof of concept should give all governments confidence that the industry has a workable digital solution that will ease the pressure of incorporating health certificate checks into the travel process, including at borders.
“This trial is an opportunity for us to work with the UK government to demonstrate that the solution works and to share the results with others as we build a robust and efficient system that will help the world get moving again,” Careen said.
A circular from the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, dated March 19, 2021, stated that airlines are to board and process passengers in possession of a valid COVID-19 PCR test result conducted at accredited laboratories.