An all-in-one ‘travel pass’ that could be used to slash border hall queues for holidaymakers is being trialed at Heathrow Airport.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade body for airlines, is trialing its new ‘Travel Pass’ mobile app on flights between the London-based airport and Helsinki.
The app allows travellers to put a digital version of their passport, along with their Covid test results and their entry requirements in one place so they can be easily checked.
Travel bosses hope technology could cut the wait times at airport check-in and border halls.
Other similar apps, such as Verifly, have been used and promoted, including by the likes of BA, as a way for passengers to check entry requirements and input tests results ahead of travel.
But the IATA’s app has drawn particular interest because of the digitalised passport function.
The Government says it is monitoring the three-week trial, which will be rolled out on the Finnair flights between Heathrow and Helsinki Airport between now and mid-August.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade body for airlines, is trialing its new ‘Travel Pass’ app (pictured) on flights between the London-based airport and Helsinki
Travel bosses hope the app could cut the wait times at airport check-in and border halls (Pictured: queues at the UK border at Heathrow Terminal 5 last month)
What is the IATA’s ‘Travel Pass’?: A Q&A
Q: What is Travel Pass?
A: IATA Travel Pass is a mobile application that helps travelers to store and manage their verified certifications for COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccinations
Q: How does IATA Travel Pass work?
A: The app has four main functions:
1. A global registry of health requirements which enables passengers to find information on travel, testing and vaccination requirements for their journey
2. A Global registry of testing / vaccination centers, enabling passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
3. A Lab App – enabling authorized labs and test centers to securely share certified test and vaccination certificates with passengers.
4. Contactless Travel App – enabling passengers to create a ‘digital passport’, receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their itinerary, and share test or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel.
Q: What’s the point of it?
A: The IATA hopes that it will streamline and digitalise travel documentation and that it will help give governments the confidence to reopen borders without quarantine.
Q: Which airlines are taking part?
A: More than 45 airlines across the world are taking part in trials – and a full list is here. For UK travellers, the main airlines trialling the scheme are BA and the remaining IAG group, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Etihad.
Q. Do passengers need to pay for IATA Travel Pass?
A: No – it’s free to download from the Apple App Store and on Google Play. It is also free to use.
Ole Orvér, Finnair Chief Commercial Officer, said: ‘Covid-19 travel restrictions have disrupted millions of travelers all around the world.
‘They have also severely contributed to ever-present anxieties for travelers across the whole aviation sector.
‘The industry is in need for current protocols to be replaced with more effective, digital solutions to simplify coronavirus travel procedures.’
IATA says the app allows travellers to receive, store and manage any verified COVID-19 certificates securely ahead of their flight.
Bosses of the trade board say they hope, in the future, the app will enable customers to navigate their way through airports and board their flight more quickly and efficiently.
‘It will do this by ensuring customers avoid the additional burden of travel document hassle – providing a smoother customer experience for regular travelers,’ say the IATA.
During the trial, the Finnish carrier will collect feedback from customers and crew to help the app’s future development.
Speaking about the plans, a Government spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The Global Travel Taskforce continues to review how we safely restart international travel while managing the risk from imported cases and variants.
‘We are constantly exploring how new technology can support these aims and look forward to hearing about the conclusion of the trials.’
Alongside Finnair, the IATA app, which is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play is being trialled on other carriers, including BA, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Etihad.
In March the IATA teamed up with Singapore Airlines for flights from Singapore to Heathrow.
Speaking at the time, JoAnn Tan, acting senior vice president of marketing planning in Singapore Airlines, said: ‘Digital health credentials will be essential as borders reopen and travel restrictions get progressively lifted worldwide.
‘It (the app) 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.’
During the trial, the Finnish carrier (pictured: A Finnair plane) will collect feedback from customers and crew to help the app’s future development
The new trial comes as it was revealed on Tuesday that Border Force officers have been told they no longer need to make Covid checks on arrivals in the UK.
According to a leaked report officials have been told they no longer have to ‘routinely’ check passengers arriving from green and amber list countries.
Arrivals currently have to provide a negative Covid test taken before departure and must complete a Passenger Locator Form within 48 hours of departure to the UK.
What do arrivals in the UK from green and amber list countries need to do before they travel?
– You must take a Covid test before you travel. This can be a PCR, Lamp or anti-gen but must meet specific requirements – of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.
– You must book and pay for a ‘Day 2’ Covid test to be taken two days after your arrival in the UK.
– You must fill out a Passenger Locator Form within 48 hours of travel
All of the above. PLUS:
– If you are NOT double vaccinated you must quarantine at home for at least 10 days. You can be released earlier if you take part in the Test and Release scheme.
– If you ARE double vaccinated you will need to declare that you have been fully UK vaccinated on your passenger locator form or you are under 18 and resident in the UK. You will need to show proof of your vaccination status to your carrier (ferry, airline or train) when you travel.
But, as of Monday just gone, Border Force officials will no longer routinely check passengers have these documents, according to the leaked document, first reported by the Guardian.
Passport e-gates will also no longer refer passengers to in-person checks by Border Force officers if a passenger locator form is not found, the paper reports.
Passenger Locator Forms are still checked by airlines ahead of travel, while the Government insists arrivals who do not comply still run the risk of being fined.
The change in policy also does not impact on red list arrivals, who must isolate in designated quarantine hotels for 10 days, at the cost of £1750, after landing in the UK.
The move, aimed at reducing queues at the border, comes after Heathrow Terminal 5’s passport control hall was thrown into chaos on Monday night due to a glitch in the e-gate system.
Thousands of frustrated passengers were left queuing in the Border hall on Monday night after a Government blunder led passengers to fill out their Passenger Locator Forms incorrectly.
The forms sparked a wave of rejections at the e-gates, with Border Force officials eventually closing them to prevent further disruption.
Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the ISU, which represents border immigration and customs staff in the UK, said Border Force staff had also been told not to challenge Covid documentation ‘even if it is recorded on the system that the documentation has not been completed’.
Ms Moreton told the BBC: ‘Ultimately this is a political decision. Certainly, it will reduce queue times significantly and hopefully also the level of verbal abuse to which Border Force staff are subject.
‘That is welcome to us. The impact on the UK’s Covid security is ultimately a scientific determination.’
A Government spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Our utmost priority is protecting the health of the public and our enhanced borders regime is helping reduce the risk of new variants being transmitted.
‘All passenger locator forms are still being checked by carriers, as they are legally required to do, and to suggest otherwise is wrong.
‘This legal requirement on carriers is underpinned by a robust compliance regime, which is overseen by regulators.
‘Compliance with these rules is essential in order to protect the population from new variants of Covid-19, and so there will be tough fines for those who do not follow the rules.’
Heathrow introduces a £5 passenger drop-off charge for cars AND taxi drivers at departures which must be paid online or over the phone – in desperate bid to claw back £2billion pandemic losses
Heathrow Airport is to introduce a £5 passenger drop-off charge outside its terminals – as it desperately attempts to claw back more than £2billion in pandemic losses.
The new charge will be brought in from October and will apply to all vehicles – including taxis and private hire cars – entering the forecourt areas outside the airport’s terminals.
The fee must be paid online or over the phone, with number plate reading cameras, instead of barriers, being used to enforce the charge.
Heathrow chiefs say the move, which brings the airport’s policy in line with the likes of Gatwick and Manchester, who also have £5 drop-off charges, is aimed at ‘improving air quality and reducing congestion’.
Bosses also admit the money will help the airport recover after losing around £5million-a-day throughout the Covid pandemic.
However the move is likely to be another headache for holidaymakers hoping for a stress-relieving getaway after months of Covid cancellations and confusion.
Meanwhile taxi unions have rallied against the move, urging its drivers should be exempt from the charge.
Announcing the decision, which comes after the launch of a review in December last year, Heathrow bosses said: ‘From October, Heathrow will be introducing a charge for vehicles dropping off passengers at its terminal forecourts.
The charge will be brought in from October and will apply to all vehicles – including taxis and private hire cars – entering the forecourt areas outside each terminal. Pictured: The charge will apply to drop-off areas outside the airport’s terminals
‘We have always said that we would consider introducing a form of road user charging and several other approaches to improve air quality and reduce congestion at Heathrow.
‘This charge forms part of our updated Surface Access strategy and sustainable travel plans.
‘We updated these plans after reviews were conducted of all airport projects in light of the collapse in passenger numbers experienced at Heathrow due to the impacts of the pandemic and the subsequent loss of £5million a day.’
Heathrow bosses (pictured: CEO John Holland-Kaye) say the £5 charge is less than the up to £15 fee it had planned to charge under its ‘Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge ‘HVAC’ plan
The charge will apply to all vehicles entering the drop-off forecourts of Heathrow’s terminals – though blue badge holders and emergency vehicles will be exempt.
Heathrow chiefs say the areas will be marked up with ‘clear signage’ on roads in and around the airport to ‘ensure drivers are fully aware’ of chargeable areas.
The charge zones will be enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, with the charge being paid online, via mobile phone or an automated telephone service.
Parking fines will be handed out to those who do not pay the charge, Heathrow bosses warned.
But the move has today been criticised by taxi unions, who warn it could inflict further damage on an industry which has already been hit badly by the Covid pandemic.
Dave Lawrie from the National Private Hire and Taxi Association said he understood why airports implement such charges, and that others already had similar schemes in place.
But, speaking to MailOnline, he said: ‘With the Covid situation, I think our industry should be exempt.’
The charge zones will be enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras (like those pictured here), with the charge being paid online, via mobile phone or an automated telephone service
Mr Lawrie said the charge would be passed on to customers – which could drive business away from taxi and private hire vehicles.
Heathrow bosses meanwhile say the £5 charge is less than the up to £15 fee it had planned to charge under its ‘Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge ‘HVAC’ plan.
Airport bosses say they had hoped to introduce the charge, of between £10-15, ahead of the opening of its third runway, along with a Heathrow Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (HULEZ) by 2022.
However they say the £5 drop-off charge replaces these proposals.
Airport chiefs say the car parks will continue to operate as normal and that a free drop off option remains at its long stay car parks, where passengers can take a free bus transfer to the terminal.
Heathrow said: ‘This move will not impact passenger pick up, which should continue via the car parks, as picking up passengers is not permitted on the terminal forecourts.
‘More details on the scheme, registering your vehicle, and making payments will be published in due course,’ the airport said in a statement.
The move comes after Gatwick Airport introduced a drop-off charge at its terminals earlier this year.
The airport introduced the £5 drop-off scheme at its North Terminal in March, followed by its South Terminal in April.
Manchester Airport introduced a similar charge in 2018 and has since increased its prices from £3 to £5 for five minutes, with ten minutes costing £6 and more than ten minutes attracting a staggering £25 charge.