SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines (SIA) has started trials on a new digital health verification app that will allow it to validate a passenger's COVID-19 test results and vaccination information, in a move aimed at facilitating the return of air travel.
The aviation and tourism industries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, amid lockdowns and border restrictions around the world.
The new digital health verification process will provide a "faster and more secure way" to validate a passenger’s health credentials than the existing protocols, and help demonstrate that people can return to travel with confidence, said SIA in a press release on Wednesday (Dec 23).
Under the trial, which started on Wednesday, travellers on SIA flights from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur who take their COVID-19 tests at selected clinics in the two cities will be given either a digital certificate or paper health certificates with a QR code.
Airport check-in staff and Singapore’s immigration authority will then scan the code into an app to verify the authenticity of those certificates, and ensure that the customers meet entry requirements.
Customers without a digital certificate can also present the paper version for manual verification.
READ: Singapore firms trialling use of digital health passports to verify travellers’ COVID-19 test results
"COVID-19 tests and vaccinations will be an integral part of air travel for the foreseeable future," said Ms JoAnn Tan, SIA's acting senior vice president of marketing planning.
"We are offering a digital solution that allows the easy and secure verification of this information, and supports the industry’s safe and calibrated recovery from this pandemic," she added.
If trials are successful, SIA may extend the new digital health verification process to other cities in its network. It also plans to integrate the process into its SingaporeAir mobile app from around mid-2021.
The verification is enabled by an application developed by Affinidi, a Temasek-founded technology company enabling portable and verifiable data credentials.
SIA is also working with several partners on the trial, including the Ministry of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and Changi Airport Group.
"It is an innovative approach to ensure a seamless travel journey whilst ensuring that health and border agencies are reassured that the passengers have the necessary health credentials to protect public health," said Ms Margaret Tan, director (airport operations regulation and aviation security), CAAS.
"We hope that other countries and airlines will consider taking a similar approach."
SIA's new digital health verification process is the first in the world to be based on the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass, a digital platform for passengers, said the carrier.
The global aviation body announced last month it was developing the Travel Pass platform and would deploy it for Android and Apple iOS phones in the first half of next year.
Under IATA's Travel Pass platform, a new Contactless Travel app will combine passport information with test and vaccination certificates received from participating labs. It will also draw on global registries of health requirements and testing and vaccination centres.
“Partnering with Singapore Airlines for the world’s first deployment of the Timatic COVID-19 module of the IATA Travel Pass is a big step forward. Together we will demonstrate that people can return to travel with confidence that they are meeting all government COVID-19 entry requirements," said Mr Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security.
Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that he applauds the industry's initiative.
"This is the 'health certificate' that may come in handy when you travel next time," he said in a post showing the verification of a digital COVID-19 test result.
"COVID-19 test results, and soon, your vaccination status, may become very relevant information at the check-in and immigration counters for cross border travel. But they will need to be easily verifiable," he said.
"Hopefully, with the support of #IATA, various airlines and authorities around the world, this can become the norm, and replace the yellow book."