British Airways is moving ahead with vaccine certification for travel, though challenges remain over the coordination of uploading proof of vaccination and/or tests and the online check-in process.
The trial of the new process is now taking place for passengers eligible to travel to India. They are now able to upload their negative Covid-19 test results and other travel declaration forms directly into their booking at ba.com, in advance of travel.
The new initiative is being trialled as part of BA’s efforts to simplify the departure process, as it prepares for the return of international travel.
The trial, which is running on all flights from London to India, will certify that passengers have the correct documentation needed for their flight before they arrive at the airport, allowing them to check-in online and avoid queuing in the terminal.
Three days before they are due to depart, passengers will receive an email directing them to the ‘Manage My Booking’ function on ba.com where they can find the relevant entry requirements, including a negative Covid-19 test result and a digital declaration form.
They then upload the required documents, which will be certified by the airline within six hours to ensure they meet the entry requirements.
British Airways aims to roll this trial out to more destinations over the coming weeks and is also working to add this functionality for those destinations to its British Airways app.
This will enable customers to securely upload the documentation for their booking directly from their mobile device, which could include negative Covid test results and / or proof of a vaccination if it is required by the government of the destination.
Sean Doyle, British Airways’ chief executive officer, said:
“At British Airways we are preparing for the meaningful return to international travel in the coming months. This means doing everything we can to simplify the journey for our customers, allow them to travel with confidence and create the best possible seamless, frictionless experience in a new Covid era.
“We know that innovation and technology hold the key to unlocking international travel. We are already offering access to travel app ‘Verifly’ on selected routes and IAG has been helping develop ‘Travel Pass’ with IATA.
“Now it’s also time to look at what we can offer through our own website. The key benefit of customers being able to upload the correct travel documentation into their booking, is that it enables them to check-in online, speeding up the airport process. We are continually exploring the best possible options to help our customers return to the skies, safely.”
Over the weekend British Airways was widely reported as preparing ‘vaccine passports’, but the uploading of documents is more accurately described as vaccine certification, since a passport certifies the holder’s identity.
Digital health travel passport, Verifly, is currently available on the airline’s flights from the UK to the US and Canada, as well as all inbound flights to the UK. The app is optional for customers and can be downloaded to a mobile device.
Business Traveller understands that the aim is for this system to work with the back office of the British Airways booking system so that travellers can check-in online and avoid queues at the airport.
At present this is not possible, so the airline is also trialling a system where certificates are uploaded into ba.com and then online check-in is possible. This is being trialled on the airline’s India routes.
There are other technologies being trialled by other airlines, including the parent company of British Airways, IAG:
To read more details on these see:
British Airways’ CEO, Sean Doyle said that the UK should be a global leader in reopening international travel due to its “great progress” in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, and is urging the UK government to “set an example” and “be ambitious” in developing systems which enable people to travel overseas.
“Britain has developed a really strong leadership position in coming out the other end of the pandemic.” said Doyle. “What we want to make sure is that we also take that leadership position into restoring travel and restoring the economy.”
He added: “We can be ambitious, and we can pursue this opportunity in a way that others could follow.”
Doyle said that it was “pretty obvious that governments and countries want to accept British travellers again”, but there needed to be more coordination “… across multiple governments and jurisdictions, and I think we have a great opportunity to drive that leadership position.”
“For us, it’s quite simple. I think people who’ve been vaccinated should be able to travel without restriction, and those who have not been vaccinated should be able to travel with a negative test result.
“It’s worth reflecting on the fact that testing availability and testing solutions are in a far better place than they were a year ago, and they’re much more affordable.”
Meanwhile the wider travel industry is waiting for April 12, 2021 when the reconstituted Global Travel Taskforce will provide a report to Prime Minister Boris Johnson with recommendations for how travel can resume.