American Airlines has launched a trial of a new digital health pass which, alongside pre-flight COVID-19 PCR testing, will enable its customers to easily travel internationally again.
The program represents a welcome move for travelers, as the airline attempts to open up tourism to countries and territories which require new arrivals to prove that they are COVID-negative. The combination of a health pass and pre-flight testing will make it much easier for Americans to vacation abroad during the pandemic.
Digital Health Pass Trial Underway
American Airlines, in partnership with biometrics and identity assurance company Daon, has developed an app which they hope can be used to both inform passengers and streamline international travel procedures during the pandemic.
The app, called VeriFLY, can be downloaded free by users on iOS and Android, who can then create a secure profile to enter information including their flight details, proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and any other required documentation. The app will then be able to verify if the given information matches the entry requirements of the user’s destination and display a pass or fail message which can easily be used by passengers, airline staff and border agents to allow entry to a country or territory.
Importantly, the app has been designed with an emphasis on the user’s privacy. This means that any protected health information, such a passenger’s COVID-19 test results, will not be stored on servers and can be removed by the user by deleting the app. This should help to reassure some customers concerned about the privacy of their health data.
The airline hopes that the app can be used by passengers in conjunction with COVID-19 PCR testing in order to enjoy a relatively streamlined and hassle-free process for travelling abroad during the pandemic. Although downloading the app is not required for travel, several countries are only allowing international arrivals who can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and the app allows passengers to do so easily.
American Airlines began its digital health pass trial on November 18, for customers travelling from Miami to Montego Bay or Kingston in Jamaica. In order to gain entry to the country travelers are required to display proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 10 days of departure by a medical laboratory that has a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) registration or ISO 15189 certification.
On November 30, the airline announced that it was expanding the digital health app program to include flights from Miami to Santiago, Chile, which recently reopened to tourists provided they can show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours before traveling.
American Airlines passengers flying to Chile will also be able to take advantage of the company’s at-home testing option, LetsGetChecked, which can be undertaken by passengers with supervision by a medical professional via video call. The home-testing program is now available for all American Airlines flights to Belize, Grenada, St. Lucia, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands – allowing customers to travel to these destinations using a convenient and safe testing option.
International Access A Big Positive For Travelers
The launch of American Airline’s digital health pass is the latest of several pioneering projects aiming to overcome the challenges of safe international travel during the pandemic and encourage tourists to return to vacations abroad.
A number of international organizations, airlines and governments have been working to develop new health screening measures in order to allow international travel without lengthy mandatory quarantine periods, while still preventing the spread of COVID-19.
These programs have included pre-flight testing, health monitoring and testing during travel, establishing COVID-free international air corridors and creating digital health passes. Even with several vaccines in preparation for distribution, it is likely that some combination of these measures will continue to be required for access to some countries in 2021 and possibly beyond.
While this means additional red tape and health screening measures that travelers will have to get used to, the good news is that airlines are keen to make these processes as quick and easy as possible in order to encourage travelers to return to flying again.
With international travel restrictions now having been in place for most of 2020, the digital health passes and testing programs will provide a huge relief for travelers desperate to return to international vacations while remaining safe and healthy.
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