More Airlines Support Digital Health Travel Apps

Two more carriers are joining the CommonPass mobile app initiative to establish a common platform for digital information sharing in order to restart international traffic after it has been drastically reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic have joined United Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines in supporting the mobile phone application developed by The Commons Project Foundation with the support of the World Economic Forum. The Commons Project is a “non-profit public trust established to build platforms and services to make life better for people around the world,” per its website.

The application was tested in October by United Airlines on a trial basis on flights between Newark and London as well as by Cathay Pacific on their services between Hong Kong and Singapore.

CommonPass aims to establish a framework “in line with protocols and guidelines from international organizations and standard bodies in the aviation and health sectors” to collect and store travelers’ health status and information, support “a range of health screening entry requirements that vary from country to country” and provide an easy, secure and simple way to share the relevant information. The mobile phone application is intended to create a barcode that can be scanned at various checkpoints to ensure that travelers comply with relevant requirements.

“Test results are often recorded on pieces of paper from unknown labs, often written in languages foreign to those inspecting them, with no standard format,” said the project through Christoph Wolff, head of mobility at the World Economic Forum, Business Insider reported. “Vaccination records are often listed on paper cards, which can be easily forged. [The pass] is the kind of concrete, swift, cross-sector collaboration needed to enable a unified action to restore confidence in travel.”

The IATA Solution

The airline industry, together with other authorities and trade bodies in other areas of travel and tourism, is pushing for quick large-scale testing as a means to restart international travel while vaccines are being finalized and distributed to the world population. Last week, during its Annual General Meeting, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the development of a digital health pass called IATA Travel Pass in a press release. This tool “will encompass four open-sourced and interoperable modules which can be combined for end-to-end solution.” These modules include a global registry of health requirements, a global registry of testing and vaccination centers, a Lab App to securely transfer testing results and vaccination certificates and a Contactless Travel App to facilitate the collection and transmission of all the documents necessary to travel internationally.

IATA Travel pass will be based on existing industry solutions such as IATA Timatic, the product widely used by airlines and airports around the world as the repository for immigration requirements, and will utilize the principle of the One ID initiative, endorsed by IATA members in 2019, which strives to “securely facilitate travel processes with a single identity token” and that will constitute the basis for the Contactless Travel App.

Both products are currently undergoing trials. CommonPass is being tested by the six carriers mentioned earlier, while the IATA Travel Pass will undergo a pilot phase with the International Airline Group, which owns airlines such as Iberia, Aer Lingus and British Airways, as a test customer and is planning a formal launch within the end of the first quarter of 2021 for iOS devices and by the second quarter of 2021 for Android devices.


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