5 major airlines to issue digital health passports for passengers in the coming months

• Following a successful test at United Airlines in October, four more airlines plan to introduce digital health licenses for international flights called Common Pass in December.

• The technology of the Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum began allowing passengers to electronically record their COVID-19 status and display it when boarding a plane or crossing a border.

• Common Pass is operated by the Common Trust Network, a non-profit organization that aims to provide people with digital access to health information, including vaccination records and laboratory results, using interoperable standards such as HL7 FHIR. It includes hundreds of healthcare systems and hospitals, as well as accredited laboratories and other suppliers in the United States and around the world.

As the world continues to fight the pandemic, countries face the question of how to safely reopen borders to travel and trade. Many airlines and travel destinations require COVID-19 test results to travel before a vaccine, but there is no standard result format or verification system.

The fragmented requirements for entering and exiting a country, along with the different types of tests required by different governments, have created a confusing system for the navigation of airlines, immigration officials, and passengers, experts say. The multitude of document types and requirements can lead to medical screening errors and even fraud and undermine a country’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the promoters, digital technology is a means of harmonizing pre-flight verification standards or before entering passenger data. A handful of groups are working on so-called digital health passports to enable travel while allaying fears of virus transmission during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Airport Council International, a group of nearly 2,000 airports around the world, as well as JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic joined the Common Trust network.

United became the first U.S. airline to test Common Pass on a transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey on 21 October. Another attempt followed in November on a Cathay Pacific Airways flight between Hong Kong and Singapore. According to the groups, both studies were successful.

Next month, Common Pass will be available to JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic passengers departing from New York, Boston, London, and Hong Kong.

Every day is not the only digital health card tested. The AOK passport developed by the International Chamber of Commerce is currently between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. The global airline lobby International Air Transport Association recently announced that its digital health pass, the IATA Travel Pass, is in the final stages of development and will be launched for Apple and Android devices next year.

Public health officials have urged people to stop non-essential travel as the United States faces an increase in COVID-19 cases during the holiday season, typically the busiest season for airlines. However, many states and countries allow outbound travel with different entry requirements.

Some destinations like Hawaii and France allow travelers to skip a two-week quarantine period if they show a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of departure. Some, such as Abu Dhabi and Croatia, are more stringent and require a negative test result within 48 hours of departure, while a handful, including Brazil and Turkey, have no barriers to entry.

As a result, many major airlines, including United and American, are offering COVID-19 tests at the airport, near transit locations, or postal tests.