Safe air travel during the pandemic remains questionable.
While some travelers have donned a mask and boarded a plane under new health and safety policies — and 54% of Americans are willing to fly domestically on their next trip — many remain cautious, preferring to wait for a vaccine or an all clear that air travel is safe.
CommonPass Digital Health Passport App for Global Travel
One promising way airlines and airports are building traveler trust is via Covid-19 testing and certification.
A few months ago, some countries required all arriving travelers show a negative Covid test 48-72 hours before arrival in order to enter without quarantine.
But it was often the responsibility of the traveler to educate themselves on the testing process, find a reputable testing facility in their home country, take the test within the stated timeframes, and ensure the results were satisfactory for entry.
With airlines needing to increase passenger demand, several new approaches are now being rolled out.
CommonPass is a new mobile app that helps air travelers prove they’ve tested negative for Covid-19. The app is provided by the World Economic Forum and The Commons Project. Analyzing the public health and Covid-19 immigration requirements for many countries, it guides travelers through the testing process at CommonPass-certified testing facilities, and then verifies they are compliant with the given country’s requirements. The app provides you with a QR code to show at immigration at your arrival airport.
In theory your entry will be seamless, or at least, way more efficient than it would be without the app.
CommonPass is being piloted on Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong-Singapore routes and will be piloted by United between London and Newark in the coming weeks.
CommonPass has the potential to simplify the disparate requirements to certify one is free of the coronavirus, making it easier — and perhaps more trustworthy — to travel by airplane. If you know everyone on board has recently tested negative, you can breathe easier, though you’re still required to wear a mask of course.
There’s clear demand for a global system and CommonPass is being backed by major companies in the hopes it becomes a standard.
Of course, there are problems still to be solved: one can get infected after being tested, and tests aren’t full-proof. But those problem exist today and even small steps towards a global health digital passport are promising. CommonPass has lifted hopes in the airline industry during an otherwise difficult and ongoing period.
Airports & Airlines: Test & Innovate Domestically
Separate from CommonPass’ global ambition, individual airports and airlines are implementing local testing. In the US, Oakland, CA and Hartford, CT airports have launched their own testing processes and testing facilities. For $150, Hawaiian Airlines will provide travelers at-home saliva tests.
At German airports, travelers can receive Covid-19 quick tests. A RT-PCR test (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction Test) detects if the traveler has an acute infection with the COVID-19 virus.
Earlier, in July 2020, Lufthansa partnered with Centogene to provide Covid-19 testing at Frankfurt Airport. The testing facility tested 40,000 travelers in its first four weeks of operation, which is set to increase as Germany mandates testing for travelers from high-risk countries.
Etihad: Tests Required to Fly
Etihad has differentiated itself from other airlines by requiring all passengers flying to or through Abu Dhabi to show a negative Covid-19 PCR test from an approved testing provider. The requirement began on August 1, 2020.
Passengers are required to show a negative Covid-19 result completed within 96 hours of arrival into Abu Dhabi in order to board. If Abu Dhabi is the passenger’s final destination, they may be required to take an additional PCR test upon arrival.
For travelers flying from Abu Dhabi between October 1 and December 31, 2020, Etihad includes Covid-19 PCR testing in the price of its tickets, excluding flights to China.
The airline has partnered with Life Dx to schedule a test at a facility within the United Arab Emirates (UAE). First and Business class passengers can even arrange for the test sample to be collected from their home.
Etihad has communicated its required COVID-19 testing policy effectively, updating its website with detailed information and a list of approved testing facilities around the world.
The airline has also led during the pandemic by introducing specially trained Wellness Ambassadors. These Etihad employees help passengers in flight and at the airport by providing care, travel wellbeing information and details of Etihad’s safety protocols. Wellness Ambassadors can also be contacted directly 24/7 via email prior to traveling.
The world appears to be accepting the reality that Covid-19 will be a part of air travel throughout this fall and winter as vaccines remain under development. Strong testing protocols are a smart way to give confidence to those eager to travel.
And who knows?
By establishing the infrastructure for global testing and contact tracing now — we can only hope that airlines and airports are better equipped should another public health crisis occur in the future.