Government indecision hindering travel pass adoption: AirAsia exec

Official indecision about travel pass apps will complicate the reopening of air traffic in Southeast Asia, according to a senior AirAsia executive.

Javed Malik, group chief operations officer at AirAsia, says he has spoken to over a dozen companies offering travel pass technology in the past year, but the apps have largely failed to obtain government buy-in.

“You’ve got all these players, but none of them have any one government saying we’re going to use them other than the IATA Travel Pass in aviation,” he says. “But then you’ve got hospitality, you’ve got conference events, you’ve got sports arenas, what do they use?”

Malik made the remarks during a panel discussion during the GHI Digital Reconnect Asia virtual conference. The focus of the panel was the restart of air travel in Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Pacific amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

An array of travel restrictions means that the Asia-Pacific – and Southeast Asia in particular – have lagged the global recovery in air travel. Complicating things further for Southeast Asian carriers is their high reliance on international travel.

Malik adds that while governments in the region are working to vaccinate people and get travel moving again, no guidance has been offered on the travel pass applications that will be used.

“We need to have a policy that allows us to have the technology ready to do digital passports,” he says. “And yet there are no companies chosen – or even indicated – as being the preferred two or three. So I’ll probably end up integrating with about five to seven companies in order to cover our Asian network, to be sure that we can actually accept every guest that wants to fly with us.”

Another panelist, independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie, says that one important issue governments need to confront for a travel restart is the mutual recognition of vaccines in Southeast Asia’s ASEAN bloc. 

“You have to have the governments on board, you…

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