United Airlines will today test a digital coronavirus pass as part of a global pilot programme to establish a common international standard for Covid-19 test results.
The nonprofit programme, called CommonPass, has been developed in the hopes it will speed up the reopening of borders, as the future of the airline industry remains precarious while flights remain grounded.
The initiative, which will see passengers upload Covid-19 test results from a certified lab to their smartphone, is backed by the World Economic Forum and Swiss-based foundation The Commons Project.
If successful, it could persuade governments around the world to ease the restrictions and quarantine requirements that have slammed air travel since the outbreak of coronavirus.
“The goal of these trials is to demonstrate to governments that they can rely on someone getting tested in one country and present their credentials in another country,” said Paul Meyer, chief executive of The Commons Project.
Today’s trial on the United Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Newark Liberty International in New Jersey comes after a similar pilot by Cathay Pacific earlier this month.
Other large airlines have also announced plans for international trials of the pass in November and December, with the hopes for a broad rollout in January next year.
The project plans to create a network of trusted labs around the world verified through digital QR codes.
It is thought the fresh initiative will significantly reduce the number of easily falsified test results from unknown labs, and forge a stronger international approach to tackling coronavirus.
It comes after Heathrow Airport yesterday launched the UK’s first pre-departure testing facility in a major boost for Britain’s ailing travel industry.
Swissport and Collinson partnered to launch the facility yesterday, with tests costing passengers £80 and results delivered within an hour.
The facilities, located in Terminals 2 and 5, will initially offer passengers travelling to Hong Kong and Italy the option to fulfil those countries’ pre-departure testing requirements at the airport before they fly.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We need a Common International Standard for pre-departure testing, and we welcome the UK government’s recent announcement that it wants to take a global lead in establishing this.
“We will work with them to make this happen as soon as possible, so that we protect livelihoods as well as lives.”