Every country around the world is balancing the need for the containment of the COVID virus as they work towards stimulating their economy. As a result, experts are suggesting a negative COVID test result within 48 hours to 7 days prior to entry. Many countries are already accepting the documentation in lieu of an extended quarantine.
For international travel to resume, the call for rapid testing will need to become the norm – either prior to departure, or upon entry to the country.
Where is Pre-Flight COVID Testing Currently Offered?
Many airlines are beginning to offer the option for travelers to participate in rapid pre-flight COVID tests prior to their departure. United Airlines is currently offering testing to those traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii. The airline claims they have developed an on-site rapid testing center that turns results in 15 minutes.
In addition, Alaska, American and Hawaiian Airlines have also announced plans to begin pre-flight testing, while JetBlue partners with Vault Health to offer discounted at-home tests.
Beyond airlines, several airports have begun to offer piloting a pre-flight testing program, including:
- Heathrow (LHR)
- Tampa (TPA)
- Hartford (BDL)
- Newark (EWR)
- New York (JFK)
Testing is not limited to the above airports, as many of the Caribbean and Middle Eastern countries are offering the option for a traveler paid test upon arrival to avoid or reduce the time to quarantine. As testing continues to develop, more airlines and airports may begin to offer this option to travelers.
Some Airlines Currently Testing Global COVID-19 Passport
As calls for required pre-trip testing increase, Cathay Pacific and United Airlines have begun testing a global passport called CommonPass on certain international flights. This trailing digital pass would certify travelers’ COVID-19 test status in a standard, recognizable format across countries.
Currently, COVID-19 test results are shared with border agents as a printed piece of paper, or photos of paper, with no standard format, or certification for testing locations. The CommonPass would allow travelers to use their mobile phones to show their test result status to border authorities and airline staff. Travelers would begin by being tested at a CommonPass-certified lab, then upload their results to their phone. The pass would also allow them to complete any health questionnaires required by their destination country. Once the proper information is filled in, the CommonPass would generate a QR code to be scanned by border officials.
The pass would enable accuracy and confidence in traveler health status, and the flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing entry requirements as the pandemic continues to evolve, eventually including specific test types or any vaccine requirements.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is currently observing the trials and, if approved, CommonPass could expand to other carriers or international routes in the future.