Ethiopian Airlines unveils a COVID-19 travel pass to facilitate route restart

The 'Trusted Travel Pass' is being introduced by the airline and the African Union.

Ethiopian Airlines is rolling out a "Trusted Travel Pass," an African platform that verifies COVID-19 medical information and aims to harmonize entry and exit screening across the continent.

Trusted Travel Pass is an initiative by the African Union (AU), a continental body which represents 55 African member states, and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

The platform launched in October 2020. Kenya was then named as the first country to use the system in January 2021. Since then, the AU has been calling on other member states to follow suit.

“Africa needs a harmonized approach to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This is why we launched the COVID-19 trusted travel portal, as an innovative digital tool to help member states,” AU commissioner for social affairs Amira Elfadil Mohammed said.

The platform, which has been developed under a public-private partnership with PanaBIOS Consortium and Econet Group, provides information on government-approved laboratories for COVID-19 testing in African countries, along with departure and arrival travel requirements.

Passengers can also upload their COVID-19 test results and vaccination certificates. These are then validated as genuine, minimizing the risk of fraud.

“Without such [a] system, the proliferation of user-tampered and fake test and vaccine certificates will undermine efforts to minimize cross-border transmission,” the AU and Africa CDC said. “The platform is secured and safe and has been developed using international standards of cybersecurity and data protection protocols.”

Ethiopian Airlines chief information officer Getinet Tadesse said the Trusted Travel Pass will play a “pivotal” role in the COVID-19 recovery.

“The solution is capable of addressing passengers’ travel needs during COVID-19 pandemic, as it helps them validate their test and vaccination documents before departure,” he said.

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Aviation Week Network asked how the Trusted Travel project fits together with other industry initiatives, such as the IATA Travel Pass.

“The AU Trusted Travel initiative and the closely related Global Haven initiative are autonomous programs separate from the IATA initiative,” a PanaBIOS Consortium spokesperson said by email. “Whilst the IATA initiative is an industry-led initiative, both Trusted Travel and Global Haven are designed from the ground up to accommodate government systems in this area and civil society concerns. However, the use of global standards should ensure interoperability of the major schemes around the world.

In January, the Africa CDC said that a series of industry partners had provided “oversight” for the Trusted Travel Initiative, including ACI Africa, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), IATA, ICAO, the UN Development Programme and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Photo credit: Rob Finlayson