New Covid-19 travel pass to be trialled in South Africa – what you should know

Privately-owned Southern African airline Airlink will become the first carrier in South Africa to trial the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass.

The travel pass is a digital smartphone app that allows passengers to provide accurate information on their Covid-19 health status and access the entry requirements of any countries they intend to visit.

This is separate from the digital Covid-19 certificate which government plans to use domestically.

Airlink said that the trial will be carried out on Airlink’s flights between South Africa and Namibia during November 2021. The airline operates flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to both Windhoek and Walvis Bay.

The IATA Travel Pass is being developed to support the re-opening of borders without quarantine and safely restart international aviation and tourism. It is seen as more secure and efficient than current paper processes used to manage health requirements.

In Airlink’s trials, the IATA Travel Pass will confirm pre-departure, that passengers meet the Covid-19 test requirements for travel with Airlink on flights between South Africa and Namibia.

Airlink customers flying on those routes will be able to download the IATA Travel Pass app from the Apple Store or from Google Play. Currently, it can only be used when travelling with airlines participating in the trials.

As this is a trial and subject to adjustments, passengers should still carry printed copies of their negative Covid-19 PCR test results on their journey, Airlink said.

“The adoption of secure, digital health solutions such as IATA Travel Pass for verifying Covid-19 test and vaccination certificates as well as pertinent entry requirements is urgently required to eliminate the uncertainty that currently deters international air travel and by extension, business, trade, tourism and the creation of desperately-needed jobs throughout Southern Africa,” said Airlink chief executive Rodger Foster.

Updated lockdown travel rules

The trial of the new IATA pass comes after the government eased flight restrictions for South Africans this week.

Notably, domestic airline operators are allowed to provide pre-packaged catering onboard the aircraft but must take all measures Covid-19 health measures into account.

Airlines may also make complimentary magazines available, which passengers must pick up when entering the aircraft. Passengers are not allowed to share these magazines.

For international travel, a traveller must provide a valid certificate with a negative Covid-19 test outcome, recognised by the World Health Organisation or equivalent local accredited authority, obtained no more than 72 hours before the date of travel.

International scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at the following airports:

  • OR Tambo International Airport;
  • King Shaka International Airport;
  • Cape Town International Airport
  • Lanseria International Airport;
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.

Long-haul flight departures and landings at the airports listed above are permitted during the hours of the curfew. However, passengers are required to present a valid boarding pass if stopped by law enforcement.

Read: Updated level 1 lockdown rules for schools and travel in South Africa

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New Covid-19 travel pass to be trialled in South Africa – what you should know