Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific has become the first airline in Asia to successfully complete a trial of the CommonPass digital health pass using both Covid-19 testing and vaccination records.
Health certification is critical to expedite the safe reopening of international travel in an industry that suffered estimated losses of $370 billion in 2020, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Up until this point, some digital health apps have focused on test results rather than vaccination records. If passengers can readily provide evidence of their vaccination status and eligibility for travel in a verified and accessible form, more international flight routes can be reopened.
“These trials will pave the way for the reopening of our international flight routes, while the collaboration with our trial partners has enabled us to demonstrate to our industry peers and the border authorities the functionality of digital health passes using testing and vaccination records authorised by the authorities,” said Cathay’s General Manager of Customer Experience, Vivian Lo.
CommonPass works by providing a downloadable digital certificate to a mobile phone. This replaces the need for customers to carry multiple paper-based records and reduces the risk of documents being spoiled or lost.
Administrative pressure from airline check-in procedures is lifted by automatically validating passenger records against travel rules for journey itineraries. This produces digital health passes that certify passenger eligibility for specific trips to a particular destination.
The CommonPass was tested by Cathay last month on a round-trip flight from Hong Kong to Singapore, using the Hong Kong vaccine code and Singapore’s HealthCerts PCR test result.
Meanwhile, last month, IBM integrated their Digital Health Pass with Amadeus, the market leader in airline ticket distribution. With international travel resuming, there are now a large number of competing health certificate solutions for airlines, including other offerings from airline bodies IATA and SITA.
CommonPass is one of the initiatives of the non-profit Commons Project, backed by the Rockefeller Foundation. A related initiative is the Commons Network, developed jointly with the World Economic Forum to share digital health credentials for travel and commerce.
Unlike many other health pass projects, CommonPass does not use blockchain. All personal information is only stored on a traveler’s device for privacy purposes and it does not share that information. However, according to CommonPass, “a de-identified (HIPAA compliant) CommonPass, based on your test result, is stored on a server for up to two weeks in order to support your travel needs.” Because of privacy concerns, numerous other health passes manage to avoid this cloud storage, even if it excludes personal information.