Nigeria: Iata Introduces Travel Pass to Resolve Border Crises

In order to enable free flow of movement across borders and to put an end to the impasse occasioned by restriction of airlines by countries due to COVID-19 pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has introduced new travel pass.

Recently the federal government and the United Arab Emirates had a spat over the introduction of Rapid Antigen Test (RDT), which has prompted Emirates Airlines to stop all outbound flights from Nigeria and also stopped Air Peace from operating to Sharjah in UAE.

The objective of the IATA traveling pass is to have a common guideline on international airline operation.

IATA noted that the issue was that governments need to be confident that they are mitigating the risk of importing COVID19 to re-open borders without quarantine and restart aviation.

To resolve this issue, IATA recommended testing, which it said has been proven to be the safest and most effective method to achieve this, adding that passengers are willing to get tested to travel.

“But both passengers and governments need to have confidence in each passenger’s verified COVID-19 status,” the body stated.

To resolve the problem IATA has given certain conditions, which include that passengers need accurate information on test requirements, where they can get tested or vaccinated, and the means to securely convey test information to airlines and border authorities and it is the authorised government agency that should provide this information to the passenger.

IATA said the airlines need to have the ability to provide accurate information to their passengers on test requirements and verify that a passenger meets the requirements for travel and government needs to be able to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting the test certificates, while the laboratories need to be able to issue certificates that will be recognized by governments.

“To address these challenges IATA is launching a combination of four modules that are interoperable and open access.

“These include registry of health requirements, which enables passengers to find accurate information on travel, testing (and eventually vaccine) requirements for their journey; registry of testing/vaccination centers, which enables passengers to find testing centres and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing/vaccination requirements of their destination and lab app, which enables authorised labs and test centers to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers.

Contact travel app introduced by IATA enables passengers to create a ‘digital passport’, verify their test/vaccination meets the regulations and shares test or vaccination certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.

This can also be used by travelers to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience.

Commending the IATA travel app, industry stakeholders said it could be used by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to break the impasse between Emirates Airlines and the federal government, which they said has become a diplomatic row.

Earlier this month, the federal government had banned Emirates for 72 hours for the airline’s introduction of RDT, which it insisted passengers must be tested four hours before the departure of their flight.

But after the lifting of the ban by the federal government, Emirates stopped airlifting passengers from Nigeria to Dubai, arguing that UAE authorities insisted on the COVID-19 rapid test to ensure that passengers coming into Dubai are free from the pandemic.

Emirates announced last week that it might begin to airlift passengers from Nigeria on February 28 but two days ago, it shifted it to March 10, 2021 and there are indications that it would shift it again; unless NCAA intervenes.

A senior industry official told THISDAY that the federal government was too hasty with the ban, which gave rise to the current face-off.