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BY October 21, 2020 - Condé Nast Traveler
International air travel got a hopeful sign for recovery on Wednesday. The first transatlantic trial of Common Pass, an app that creates a standard digital format for COVID-19 test results, was successfully completed.
Travelers aboard the United Airlines flight from London Heathrow airport to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International volunteered to be part of the trial, which was the second-ever for Common Pass. The app is the result of a collaboration between nonprofit organization Common Project, which designed the platform, and the World Economic Forum. Also involved with the initiative are Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and the Centers for Disease Control.
“We’ve had a very close collaboration with both CBP and CDC,” Paul Meyer, CEO of Common Project, said in a press conference after the London to New York flight landed on Wednesday. “They were both observing the pilot and having discussions about where to go from here.”
As various countries, including the U.S., look at opening up air travel corridors to restart international travel, both governments and airlines are looking for a uniform way to evaluate COVID-19 results—and who is deemed safe to fly. The successful trial could be a good sign for one such air corridor between New York and London, which is reportedly under consideration by government officials. Instead of having fliers with various paper results, the app's standardized format makes it easier for officials and airline employees to read.
Here's how the platform works: Fliers download the app and go to a participating lab or test site for a COVID-19 screening of their choice (the platform is designed to support different types of tests). Travelers are given an online account by the lab where they’re tested. Through Common Pass, users can then log in to their respective lab’s system and pull their results into the app. “In the U.S. we’re connected to many of the largest labs here like Lab Corp,” Meyer said. The organization is also working to connect with major labs in London and Hong Kong. “We’re building up a network around the world of labs, and other healthcare sources, who are accredited or certified.”
Volunteers on Wednesday’s trial showed their results in Common Pass to airline and other officials prior to departure from Heathrow and again upon landing in Newark. “From a user perspective: very, very simple process,” said J.D. O’Hara, one of the flight volunteers and CEO of Internova Travel Group. “Within 30 minutes [after the test], our results were uploaded on the Common Pass app.” The volunteers then went through immigration at Heathrow, showing a QR code with their name and passport number in the app to the border official. Upon landing, fliers showed the same QR code at immigration and customs in Newark.
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