Harmonisation of Covid credentials ‘a pipe dream’

Covid brought a need for continuous technological innovation, but the digitisation of health credentials has not advanced as fast as predicted.

Looking forward as part of the latest Travel Weekly Insight Annual Report, Deloitte aviation assets director Martin Bowman said changes will continue “for the foreseeable future”.

“For as long as there is that level of variability around the schedule and countries continue to apply border restrictions, we’re going to see a degree of volatility,” he said.  “From a technology point of view, having the ability to dynamically manage your operation, and the tools to predict demand and manage rostering and deployment, will be important.”

In the previous year’s reports, Bowman talked about Covid being a catalyst for digitalisation.

While he believes “that will continue in certain areas”, he said: “The bit that hasn’t advanced to the extent it could have is digital identity.

“When we started looking at the concept of the digital health passport, many in the industry who are plugged into initiatives on seamless travel thought ‘If I’ve got my credential in relation to health, it’s not a massive extension to apply that to other biometric uses such as biometric boarding, immigration etc’.

“But digital enablement of that area hasn’t progressed to the extent we hoped. “The economics just kicked inFew would disagree with the concept of linking a digital health credential with digital identity.

But Bowen explained “the economics just kicked in. The sector has suffered so much. Airlines are still losing money. They haven’t had the flexibility to invest in this type of thing.”

He also fears harmonisation of Covid-related credentials “is a pipe dream” at government level.

Bowman argued: “If a country is able to get by with a paper document, it will accept that. I’m not convinced there is going to be the commitment [from governments] to the level of integrity these systems have been designed with.

“These systems are complex. The core technology is complex, but the level of integration that goes with it is even more complex. These are leading-edge technologies. Why would you go to all the expense if you’re thinking ‘Am I really going to need this in 12 months?’”

He added: “The challenge in aviation is investment. The sector has had to shore up its finances significantly to get through the pandemic. The justification for funding is going to be so much harder.”

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