NEWARK, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum today announced the first successful transatlantic trial of CommonPass, a digital health pass aimed at enabling safer travel and the reopening of international borders.
Volunteer travellers landing at Newark Liberty International Airport on United Airlines Flight 15 from London Heathrow used the CommonPass health pass on their mobile phone to document their COVID-19 status and share it with airline staff upon disembarking from the aircraft.
Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observed the CommonPass demonstration in Newark.
"The COVID pandemic has brought down travel and tourism across the board," said Troy Miller, Director, Field Operations New York, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “CBP is happy to observe the efforts and be a part of the solution to build confidence in air travel and are encouraged by this CommonPass pilot.”
At present, COVID-19 test results for travel are frequently shared on pieces of paper - or photos of the paper - from unknown labs, often written in languages foreign to those inspecting them. The lack of a standard test result format and certification system leave room for confusion and even falsification of results.
The purpose of CommonPass and the CommonPass Framework is to enable safer airline and cross border travel by giving both travellers and governments confidence in each traveller's verified COVID-19 status.
“Without the ability to trust COVID-19 tests - and eventually vaccine records - across international borders, many countries will feel compelled to retain full travel bans and mandatory quarantines for as long as the pandemic persists,” said Dr. Bradley Perkins, Chief Medical Officer of The Commons Project and former Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “With trusted individual health data, countries can implement more nuanced health screening requirements for entry.”
Gloria Guevera, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said:
“We are encouraged by the successful trial of CommonPass, and I am excited to be able to be here at London Heathrow to witness such a historic event,” Guevera said. “CommonPass, along with other critical measures such as a standardised international testing protocol, is key to reviving the seriously ailing global Travel & Tourism sector.”
“We hope that this and other pilots currently being trialled will prove successful, so this incredibly important sector, which supports one in 10 jobs worldwide, can recover swiftly,” Guevera added.
Today’s transatlantic trial followed a successful trial of CommonPass on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Singapore on October 6.
“Following these successful trials with Cathay Pacific and United Airlines, we begin the rollout of CommonPass with more of the world’s largest airlines,” said Paul Meyer, CEO of The Commons Project. “In November and December we will launch routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.”
Investment bank Jefferies put out a report on Tuesday about CommonPass, describing it as a potential way to reopen international travel.
“Neither COVID testing or vaccines are a silver bullet, in our view. However, the combination of rapid testing, vaccines and the CommonPass digital health pass could offer a way forward,” said Sandy Morris, equity analyst at Jefferies. “The open question is how fast a digital solution like CommonPass can be deployed. Our guess is it will be rapid.”
The goal of the CommonPass trials is to replicate the full traveller experience of taking a test for COVID-19 prior to departure, uploading the result to their phones, and demonstrating their compliance with entry requirements at their departure and destination airports.
“United has consistently demonstrated its leadership in developing innovative solutions to help ensure a safer travel experience for our customers during these challenging times,” said Steve Morrissey, United’s Vice President, Regulatory and Policy. “Testing is a key component of a multi-layered approach to safely reopening travel. Trials with solutions like CommonPass are critical to demonstrate the potential for alternatives to blanket quarantine measures or travel restrictions. We will continue looking for opportunities to facilitate these valuable programs and re-open critical routes, such as those between the U.S. and the UK.”
John Holland Kaye, CEO at Heathrow airport said: “Heathrow has long called for a range of trials that will inform governments and future testing programmes. We look forward to reviewing the findings from today’s CommonPass pilot, using the learnings to support the recovery of an industry that provides so many jobs and economic opportunities globally. It is vital that the benefits of aviation take off again and where better to start than with a connection from Heathrow, into New York.
At London Heathrow, tests from private testing company Prenetics will be administered by the travel and medical services firm Collinson in the dedicated COVID-19 testing facilities set up with their partner Swissport.
“London to New York is one of the most popular and critically important routes in the world, and we’re delighted that our pre-departure airport testing facilities are aiding the acceleration of the recovery of transatlantic travel,” said David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “We’re delighted to be partnering with CommonPass and believe that as a not-for-profit supported by the World Economic Forum they are in a unique position to drive unification among governments, airlines and critical players in the travel sector. Alignment at a global level is the only way to safely re-open up travel to the world.”
“The ability to verify health information in a secure, certified manner will allow countries and regions to open borders and restart the travel industry along with the economic activity that comes with it,” said J.D. O’Hara, CEO, Internova Travel Group, one of the largest travel services companies in North America and the UK, who led the group of volunteers. “This CommonPass pilot demonstrates that we have a means of enabling safer cross-border travel by giving both travellers and governments confidence in the COVID-19 status of every traveller.”
O’Hara said his commitment to finding safer ways to restart travel fueled his interest in participating in the transatlantic trial to experience the viability of the process. He described the experience as “easy to understand, quick and efficient,” adding, “I consider the trial a resounding success and feel optimistic that travellers will soon have the confidence to get back in the air in a safe and secure manner.”
Avi Lasarow, CEO Prenetics, commented: “We’re enormously proud to be playing such a central role in the reopening of major international aviation routes, and we’ll continue to look for opportunities to expand our solutions both in the UK and internationally.”
Enabling platforms like CommonPass are crucial to restore confidence in travel for travellers, industry and governments alike.
“Safe border reopening will not be possible without mutual trust and recognition between countries of testing results and vaccine records,” said Lauren Uppink Calderwood, Head of Aviation, Travel and Tourism at the World Economic Forum. “The CommonPass framework enables this layer of trust while reducing potential fraud and ensuring the privacy of user data.”
About The Commons Project Foundation
The Commons Project Foundation is a non-profit public trust building global digital services and platforms for the common good. Founded with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and based in Switzerland, it was established to build and operate the shared platforms and services that neither governments nor tech companies are well positioned to create. The Commons Project’s public trust governance structure is designed to ensure that people’s interests are served above all. Learn more at thecommonsproject.org.
About the World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. It was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests. The Forum strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance. Moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does.
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