Seeking to facilitate the return of regular air travel, Singapore Airlines (SIA) has begun trialling a new digital health verification app that can validate a passenger’s COVID-19 test results and vaccination information. 

Why it matters: Aviation and tourism are two of the industries that have been most heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of lockdowns and border restrictions around the world. Singapore Airlines, which has cut thousands of jobs and grounded most of its fleet, said its net loss in the July-September period totalled SGD 2.34 billion, according to CGTN

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The app – the first in the world to be based on the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass framework – will make it easier for SIA customers to organise their COVID-19 information and experience more “seamless” air travel.

“This is a faster and more secure way to validate a passenger’s health credentials than the existing protocols, speeding up both the airport check-in process and the immigration entry process into Singapore,” SIA said in a press release yesterday announcing the launch of the trial. 

Under the trial, travellers on SIA flights from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur who take a COVID-19 test at specific clinics in the two cities will be presented with either a digital or paper health certificate with a QR code.

Airport check-in staff and Singapore’s immigration authority can then scan the code with the app to verify the authenticity of those certificates and check if flyers meet travel requirements. 

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More details: “COVID-19 tests and vaccinations will be an integral part of air travel for the foreseeable future. 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,” said JoAnn Tan, Singapore Airlines’ Acting Senior Vice President of Marketing Planning.

SIA may extend the new digital health verification process to other cities in its network if the trial is successful, and also plans to integrate the app’s functions into its SingaporeAir mobile app around mid-2021. 

Despite the trial, the IATA’s Contactless Travel app is still in development. It works by combining a flyer’s passport information with Covid-19 test and vaccination certificates received from participating labs. It also collects information from global registries of health requirements and testing and vaccination centres.

“Hopefully, with the support of #IATA, various airlines and authorities around the world, this can become the norm, and replace the yellow book,” said Singaporean Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung in a Facebook post.

Looking ahead: SIA delivered the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to Singapore on Monday evening.

“The delivery of this first batch of COVID-19 vaccines to Singapore is an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19, and we are honoured to be able to play a part in this. It also served to demonstrate SIA’s and the Singapore air hub’s readiness for the very important job of transporting and distributing COVID-19 vaccines internationally,” said Chin Yau Seng, senior vice president for cargo at SIA.

SIA is looking to increase the amount of available cargo space on its flights as well as assigning priority to COVID-19 vaccine shipments on its aircraft. 

SIA plays a major role in the air transportation of pharmaceuticals – specifically biologic shipments – across Europe, India, South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

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