There’s been a lot of talk about how the travel industry will get back to normal in a world marred by COVID-19, but JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes has some ideas. At the Greenwich Economic Forum, he talked about how vaccines will play a role, but they won’t be the whole story. Get ready for a health passport in order to travel in the air.
Health passports for travel
Hayes was asked about whether vaccines will be the key to getting the airline industry back to normal.
“I think a vaccine will be a very big part of it, but everyone sitting here who’s waiting for the vaccine to suddenly flick a switch on I think is mistaken,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a hybrid way out of this, which is a combination of — a vaccine is a big part of it — but also some concept of testing or health passport, particularly for international markets.”
He noted that the world’s governments are dealing with a lot of uncertainty in people’s travel plans, and lockdowns are causing problems. Even those who are ready to travel may worry that a new lockdown could prevent them from getting back home. There is also a chance that changes to travel plans could keep people from getting their money back.
Rapid antigen tests and health passports
Hayes said it’s important to try to create a common set of standards. He said with digital health passports, people can either show proof of vaccination or that they had a COVID test or rapid antigen testing. Hayes believes at some point rapid antigen tests will allow people to be tested at the airport so they can get on a plane and feel reasonably comfortable.
He noted that people don’t want to wear a mask for an eight- or nine-hour flight, and they want a sense of normalcy while on the plane. Hayes added that a vaccine will be a huge enabler, but other things need to happen.
Hayes was asked about how technology could fix some of the problems currently preventing travel from getting back to normal. He said a company could insert itself between the testing space and the customer space. For example, a customer could go to the pharmacy, get a test and then upload the results to their device and use that to travel.
He also believes technology like this will allow sports arenas to reopen. He noted that technology has been moving quickly to help solve some of those problems, adding that they never used to clean airplanes with UV robots, but they are now.
What do you think? Should a health passport be required to travel? Or is this going to be another major infringement on personal liberty?