Airlines won't call their vaccine passports vaccine passports

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

When is an immunity passport not an immunity passport? When you call it by a different name.

That seems to be the theory that the US airline industry is going with, at least for now. We’ve known since January that the major air carriers were already working on a system of vaccination status or COVID test result verification without waiting for the government to get involved. They felt that it would be the only way to get customers back on the planes and traveling again. Several European countries are already trying to open back up for tourism and they are requiring a status check of that sort in order to be able to land at their airports and move about.

But the name “vaccine passport” has taken on a rather toxic connotation in recent months and the executives at the airlines clearly know it. With that in mind, they’re trying to come up with a “friendlier” name for the newly required documentation. Let’s check in and see what they’ve come up with thus far. (Yahoo News)

These digital documents allow people to “present digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results.” They are often called vaccine passports but Delta Air Lines (DAL) CEO Ed Bastian told Yahoo Finance Live, “We don’t call it a vaccine passport. It carries too many connotations.”

Vaccine passports have been a political hot potato since the Biden administration proposed in January to merge coronavirus testing documents with vaccination records.

Bastian said Delta, like United, is, “more focused on a credential, travel credential, if you will, to indicate that you’ve been vaccinated and or tested based on the regulatory requirements.”

Ah, so they’re leaning toward calling them “travel credentials.” That sounds much nicer, doesn’t it? Excuse me madam, but I’ll need to see your travel credential before boarding.

Listening to the comments from these travel industry executives, it sounds like they never wanted to get into the passport business to begin with and were hoping the government would take care of it. Airline consultant Mike Boyd of Boyd Group International is quoted as describing the process of creating a globally recognized system of immunity passports as being like “a DMV on steroids.”

A type of digital credentialing network recognized in multiple countries called the CommonPass app has already been set up. It was established by the World Economic Forum Common Trust Network, but that organization is also being very careful not to refer to it as a “passport.” Doing so would create all manner of regulatory issues. Instead, they are allowing travelers to use their own government documents (such as CDC vaccination cards or current test results) to leverage their way into the network and gain access to airline seats for international travel.

Back in America, United Airlines was one of the first out of the gate, both literally and figuratively. They set up their own Travel-Ready Center and incorporated it into their mobile phone app. Travelers can use the app to get information about where they can be tested or which documents they can display to show that they are infection-free so they can book a flight. But yet again, they aren’t referring to it as a “passport” of any kind. It’s just a “convenient service” for you to show that you’ve complied with the instructions to be vaccinated or tested.

Somewhere out there in the cosmos, George Orwell is laughing his butt off right about now.