Etihad Airways has announced that it will pilot digital health passport ICC AOKpass on routes between Paris and Abu Dhabi, allowing passengers to verify their Covid-19 test results before flying.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) collaborated with International SOS and the SGS Group to create the digital, secure and portable copy of medical records. Etihad will launch the service on flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Abu Dhabi in conjunction with MedAire, an International SOS company, following a successful pilot in September 2020.

Travellers will be able to securely store their PCR test results digitally on their mobile devices, which will then be verified at the airport using a “global, incorruptible blockchain-based network” to ensure that results are valid and in line with government regulations.

As it stands, travellers arriving in Abu Dhabi are required to present a negative PCR test (taken prior to departure) and are subsequently tested on arrival in the UAE capital.

Successful trials of the ICC AOKpass took place on flights last year between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. Since then, Alitalia has begun a pilot scheme to digitise Covid-19 rapid antigen test results via the passport for flights from Rome to New York – this is set to be followed by flights to Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

Passengers travelling to Singapore from Indonesia and Malaysia can also use the pass to show their Covid-19 test results at dedicated immigration lanes at Changi airport.

According to International SOS, the ICC AOKpass is likely to be rolled out to a total of 170 airports in the near future, with locations in Paris, Japan and the US in line to use the technology.

Bill Dolny, CEO of MedAire, commented on the news:

“Providing travellers with a fast and secure way to store and authenticate their test results is a key element in the return to travel, and in regaining the trust of passengers. MedAire, as world’s leading provider of health and safety solutions for the aviation industry, has actively supported airports and airlines around the world in restarting travel safely and securely, relying on our vast provider network since the start of the Covid outbreak. Supporting Etihad Airways in pioneering this pilot is a major milestone to further the resumption of international traffic in a safe and Covid-19 free environment.”

Mohammad Al Bulooki, Etihad Aviation Group Chief Operating Officer, added:

“As part of Etihad’s Wellness initiative, the health and safety of the airline’s guests is the top priority. By collaborating with MedAire, this pilot will explore enhanced operational efficiencies, improved customer experience and greater compliance with regulations that restrict the spread of Covid-19 to keep the world healthy. Additionally, it will provide greater assurance that everyone on board an Etihad aircraft has verifiably tested negative for Covid-19.”

“Since the onset of the pandemic, Etihad believes that an enduring legacy of Covid-19 will be the need for passengers to present their medical status at the time of travel. The development of health passes are new to the airline industry, and Etihad has been working with a number of companies on digital applications for this purpose, to ensure that our guests have the greatest flexibility and the highest standards of wellness when they travel.”

Dr Chester Drum MD PhD, co-founder of ICC AOKpass, also commented on the partnership:

“The world needs a standardised technical infrastructure to protect health information while allowing passengers to demonstrate fitness to travel. With the global support of the ICC, International SOS and SGS – we launched world’s first live deployment of a COVID-19 health status verification solution for international air travel for Etihad.

“With significant progress since then, including the first use of a digital Covid-19 health record to cross an immigration checkpoint for travel from Japan to Singapore, our operational experience with real-world airline customers is unparalleled. Together with innovative partners such as Etihad, our operational deployments are now guiding a global product to restart cross-border travel.”

Etihad also recently announced a partnership to launch the IATA Travel Pass for passengers on selected flights from Abu Dhabi in the first quarter of 2021.

The ICC AOKPass is one of several “vaccine passports” on trial at the moment. For more information on these documents, see our feature:

Vaccine passports – a guide to the different options