The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has outlined new industry standards which it hopes will eventually enable travellers to arrive at airport ‘Ready to Fly’.

Part of the ‘One ID’ initiative, the catchily named ‘Recommended Practice on Digitalization of Admissibility’ aims to avoid stops at the check-in desk or boarding gate for document checks.

IATA said that programmes are already in place at many airports “enabling travellers to move through airport processes such as boarding without producing paper documentation because their boarding pass is linked to a biometric identifier”.

These include Delta’s end-to-end biometric terminal at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, and Emirates’ biometric path at Dubai International airport.

Emirates launches ‘biometric path’ at Dubai International

But in many cases travellers still have to “prove their admissibility” at a check-in desk or boarding gate, through physical checks of paper documentation such as passports, visas or health credentials.

As a result the new industry standards are designed to “advance the realization of One ID with a mechanism for passengers to digitally obtain all necessary pre-travel authorizations directly from governments before their trip”.

IATA said that by sharing the “OK to Fly” status with their airline, travellers would then be able to avoid all on-airport document checks.

The aim is for travellers to be able to complete the necessary checks from the comfort of their own home, including:

  • Creating a verified digital identity using their airline app on their smart phone
  • Using their digital identity to send proof of all required documentation to destination authorities in advance of travel
  • Receiving a digital ‘approval of admissibility’ in their digital identity/passport app
  • Sharing the verified credential with their airline
  • Receiving confirmation from their airline that all is in order and go to the airport

IATA said that the new standards had been developed to protect passengers’ data, with only verified credentials being shared peer-to-peer, with no intermediating party. The association added that under the plans manual processing options would be retained “so that travellers will have the ability to opt out of digital admissibility processing”.

A recent IATA Global Passenger survey found that 83 per cent of travellers would be willing to share immigration information for expedited processing.

Commenting on the news Louise Cole, IATA’s head customer experience and facilitation, said:

“Travellers can be confident that this process will be both convenient and secure. A key point is that information is shared on a need-to-know basis.

“While a government may request detailed personal information to issue a visa, the only information that will be shared with the airline is that the traveller has a visa and under which conditions.

“And by keeping the passenger in control of their own data, no large databases are being built that need protecting. By design we are building simplicity, security and convenience.”

For our feature on the future of airport biometrics (published in 2019), see:

Airport biometrics: Face of the future