Qantas starts first ‘vaccine passport’ trial ahead of border reopening

Qantas has started its first passenger trial of a digital “vaccine passport” system which it says will be necessary for overseas travel when Australia’s international border reopens.

The airline said it operated its service flight using the CommonPass digital health app on a government repatriation flight from Frankfurt that arrived in Darwin on Friday morning.

Qantas started the trial on a 787 Dreamliner repatriation flight from Germany that landed in Darwin on Friday morning. Credit:Getty

CommonPass is one of several digital apps airlines and governments are assessing as a way to certify that travellers have undergone the necessary COVID-19 tests and, eventually, vaccinations before they fly.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce has previously said that vaccination would be mandatory to fly on his airline and expects Australia and other countries to make vaccination a requirement of overseas travel.

During the trial, Qantas will invite passengers on its government-chartered repatriation flights to use the app to prove they have returned a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of their departure, which is a requirement of entry into Australia.

“We want to get our international flights back in the air and our people back to work and a digital health pass will be a key part of that,” Qantas Group chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said.

The CommonPass is one solution to certifying COVID-19 test and vaccination records.

“COVID test results and proof of vaccine will be required in many countries for quarantine-free travel, just as it has been for polio and yellow fever vaccinations in the past.”

Health providers can send verified test results and vaccination records directly to the CommonPass app, which matches those records against any given country’s entry requirements. The app produces a simple “yes/no” notification to tell airlines and immigration officials whether the traveller is permitted to fly.

Qantas has already used CommonPass – an initiative of the Swiss-based social enterprise Commons Project – for airline crew and will also trial the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass app.

Air New Zealand is preparing to trial the IATA app on flights between Auckland and Sydney for three weeks in April.

Qantas is planning for international travel to resume in late October, when it thinks Australia will open the international border following the completion of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

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