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We’ve already seen Etihad and Emirates sign up to the IATA Travel Pass, we’ve seen American Airlines go all-in with its ‘Health Passport’ in partnership with VeriFly and now United Airlines has launched its own version of a COVID travel wallet with the introduction of its ‘Travel-Ready Center’.
United Airlines Travel-Ready Center
United has described its Travel-Ready Center as “a new digital solution where customers can review COVID-19 entry requirements, find local testing options and upload any required testing and vaccination records for domestic and international travel, all in one place”, and that sounds exactly like the American Airlines Health Passport that was rolled out a couple of weeks ago.
Where United’s Travel-Ready Center differs from American’s solution is that while American Airlines relies on a 3rd party app (VeriFly), United’s solution is built into its mobile app and website. Also, where American Airlines has given us scant information on how the app it uses will verify the validity of any documents uploaded to it, United has given us an insight into how it plans to verify information supplied by travelers.
Customers with an active reservation can access the Travel-Ready Center through the “My Trips” section of the United App and on united.com. The Travel-Ready Center will provide tailored details on requirements for all travelers 18 and older on a customer’s itinerary, with status indicators noting if they are travel-ready based on specific requirements each individual needs to meet in order to board their flight, including any additional requirements for connecting flights. Documents uploaded by a passenger will be reviewed by designated personnel for verification. The individual status indicators for each passenger will then note whether they are “travel ready” and they will be allowed to complete the check-in process. Customers should still plan to bring the physical documents to the airport in case further inspection is needed along their journey.
When I access a booking within United.com I can see the Travel-Ready Center available to me right above the details of my flights…
…and when I access the Travel-Ready Center for this particular booking this is what I see:
When I expand the section that shows “requirements pending” I’m shown the entry requirements for the UK (which are about to change) and I’m asked to confirm that I understand all the requirements.
Essentially, and from what I can see, United’s travel center is currently a resource that informs travelers of their destination’s entry requirements and a mobile wallet that allows them to store any documentation that their destination has requested and to have that information checked by a United agent.
However, while United has said that “[d]ocuments uploaded by a passenger will be reviewed by designated personnel for verification” I’m not sure how robust this process will be.
Firstly, how are United’s agents going to be trained to tell the difference between a real and fake COVID test? It may be easy to give them example test certificates from US labs so they know what to expect at home, but will they really be able equipped to deal with test certificates issued by countries around the world?
Secondly, how may of these agents will United have and how long will it take for the documents to be verified? This doesn’t sound scalable. If I submit my test result 12 hours before I’m due to fly will I really have my documents verified before I’m ready to depart?
Still, all that aside, it would appear as if United isn’t finished adding featues to the Travel-Ready Center and that’s good news for travelers. The airline has confirmed that it will be introducing more capabilities to the Center in the coming weeks and that customers can expect to be able to do the following in the near future:
- Schedule a COVID-19 test at one of more than 15,000 testing sites around the world, right from the app or website.
- Access the recently launched “Agent on Demand”, a new feature that gives customers the ability to video chat live with a customer service agent to answer any questions about pre-travel requirements or documentation.
- View details about visa requirements for the countries they plan to visit.
These look to be genuine enhancements to what United currently offers (and a big improvement on what a lot of other airlines currently offer) and it may be that if the Travel-Ready Center can help arrange COVID tests around the world (a great idea), it will mean that United (or a United affiliate) has a relationship with the testing company and will therefore have a secure way of verifying that a test result is genuine and that it belongs to the person traveling.
This would have the potential to solve a lot of issues surrounding the verification of doccumenation and would speed things up by removing the need for agents to manually review all submissions – two things that would be big positives for United flyers.
United Airlines has launced its Travel-Ready Center which can be accessed fro the airline’s mobile app or its website. As things stand, the Center is a resource that informs travelers of their destination’s entry requirements and a mobile wallet that allows travlers to store any documentation that their destination has requested and to have that information checked by a United agent. Going forward, the Center is also expected to allow travelers to book COVID tests in cities around the world.