International travel has been severely curtailed as governments around the world try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. One barrier to resuming flights has been the lack of a widely accepted method for verifying the health status of travelers.
Currently, the diverse testing requirements for entry to different countries, as well as the different types of tests required by governments around the world, have created a complex situation for immigration authorities, passengers and airlines. As a result, passengers are often confused about the requirements and check-in agents must try to determine the authenticity of multiple test documents, leading to inefficiencies and errors.
But the world’s airports and airlines are moving forward with technological innovations that could help reopen international borders safely, a promising development whether people are traveling for business or leisure.
One of those innovations, a digital app called CommonPass, can give officials at airports and border crossings the ability to instantly check an individual’s health status. The app is being developed by a nonprofit organization, The Commons Project, which was established to build digital services for the common good.
Airline officials say the app is part of a multilayered approach to safely reopening travel and ensuring the wellbeing of passengers.
When CommonPass is fully rolled out, travelers will download the app, which is linked to their lab results and vaccination records. They consent to have that information used to validate their COVID status, without revealing any other underlying personal health information.
The app assesses whether the traveler’s lab results or vaccination records come from a trusted source and satisfy the screening requirements of the country the individual wants to enter. CommonPass delivers a simple yes or no answer as to whether the traveler meets the criteria. Health records remain stored securely and privately on an individual’s smartphone.
In October, executives from Travel Leaders’ parent company were among those who tested the system on a flight from London to Newark, N.J. They reported that the process was easy, quick and efficient.
Now, CommonPass is expanding its trial stage. In December, several airlines including United began rolling out the app on select flights departing from New York, Boston, London and Hong Kong.
The International Air Transport Association, an airline industry organization, is working on launching a similar app.
The IATA Travel Pass will provide passengers with information on travel, testing and vaccination requirements for their journey. Travelers will be directed toward testing centers that meet the standards required at their destination. Those testing centers will be able to securely send results to passengers, who will share the information in order to cross a border or board a flight. Paper alternatives will be available for travelers who don’t have a mobile phone.
When implemented, these digital health passports will give travelers and government officials alike the confidence in knowing that everyone on a flight has been tested with the same standard.
For help navigating any travel plans, contact your travel advisor or connect with one through Travel Leaders/Fly Away Travel.