The Covid-19 pandemic will trigger increased collaboration and data sharing across airlines, airports and border agencies, say leading industry consultants.

Deloitte lead partner for transportation Alistair Pritchard believes passenger journeys “could be transformed” through an accelerated development of digital platforms and data sharing due to the Covid crisis.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly Roadmap to Recovery webcast, Pritchard said: “It sometimes takes a crisis to drive change.

“Advance passenger information could include data on a passenger’s health history, travel history, visas and most-recent Covid-19 result, and that could form part of a digital identity.

“But that relies on different stakeholders to work together and on consumers to want it.”

Pritchard said: “We’re starting to see examples of that and it will accelerate.

“Governments will set policies, but there is an opportunity for stakeholders. We’re starting to see governments, border agencies, airlines and airports try different technologies such as biometric technology.”

Pritchard argued: “The issue in travel is you have different holders of data, and data sharing has historically not been widespread.”

It is also challenged by General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements, he said.

“You have data held by airports, data held by airlines, data held by Border Force. Sharing data is where there need to be strides forward.”

But he insisted: “I’m optimistic collaboration and sharing of information will accelerate, although that is not the same as thinking it will be massively improved in the next six months.”

His colleague Andy Gauld, Deloitte UK aviation and analytics lead, said: “There are more opportunities, but it needs to become more open more quickly.

“The challenge is maintaining [progress]. After 9/11 there was a lot of data and information sharing but it dwindled. This is about collaboration and data sharing over the long-term.

Gauld argued: “Sharing my travel history and the last time I had a Covid test will become part of the process. The basic requirements need to be the same no matter where you go, so we need commonality of standards.”

He insisted: “When we’ve had major disruption in the industry, there is always a level of change.”

Pritchard noted: “The lack of consistency around the world means if you have a digital identity with a core set of verified data, when you arrive at an airport or check into a hotel they can check the data to meet their requirements.

“If you go to a different country and the requirements are different, you still have that core set of data.”

He argued: “We’re going to see a shift towards information that allows ease of movement and that individuals themselves see as a benefit.

“There is a much higher likelihood of that happening now than pre Covid. The passenger journey could be transformed.”

However, Travlaw lawyer Gemma Wilson noted: “Protection of customers’ data remains paramount. The GDPR does not go out of the window just because an airline requests passenger data, just because of Covid.”

Speaking on a Travlaw webinar, Wilson said: “Travel service providers might be asked to share data on passengers.

“You need to ask whether there is a legal basis for sharing the data, that the passenger has given their consent, and that the data sharing is provided for under your privacy policy.”