The International Air Transport Association, a trade association representing most of the world's prominent airlines, announced Wednesday that a COVID vaccine passport app would be launched on the Apple platform in mid-April, which represents the first significant step toward the possible adoption of such a system by most of the world's airlines. According to Reuters, the app will launch on the Android platform at an unspecified "later" date.
The app is designed to "speed up the check in process" by allowing travelers to import proof of their vaccination and/or negative COVID tests onto their phone in a format that can easily be scanned and verified by airline employees. According to Engadget, the app also contains a database of COVID travel restrictions that will alert passengers of what they will need before they fly somewhere. It also purportedly contains a "secure, encrypted channel" that will allow medical providers to send over vaccination and testing records securely.
Notably, airlines have not yet publicly indicated whether they will require travelers to use the app before traveling, although a spokesman for the IATA claimed to Reuters that a "huge amount of airlines have requested to be on board" with the app.
A few days a go, the state of New York became the first entity to develop a COVID vaccine passport app, the "Excelsior Pass" that is, at least for now, an opt-in option to speed access to any business or event that might require proof of COVID vaccination for entry.
The potential for widespread use of a "vaccine passport" has become a contentious one as the country moves toward reopening fully as the vaccine rollout continues. Many have predicted that airlines will be the first major companies to require proof of vaccination for entry, especially as studies have shown that Americans are more anxious about resuming airline travel than many other activities. Airlines presumably hope that by requiring every passenger to prove vaccination, they can recapture business from those who have been most reluctant to travel since the pandemic began.
However, the prospect comes with a trade-off: Many Americans, even those not normally especially concerned with digital privacy, balk at the idea of being forced to provide private medical information before making use of a commercial service. Some officials, notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), have promised to take action that would stop companies from requiring proof of COVID vaccination for service.