The hunt is on for a silver bullet that rubber stamps an employee's immunity to Covid-19. Only then will corporations be able to kickstart their business travel.
Passenger authentication in the corporate travel sector could be ripe for disruption, and there are already signs of companies moving in.
Software company Bizagi last week launched the CoronaPass, a certification system app that allows employees to demonstrate their immunity to authorities when required, based on the results of Covid-19 antibody testing.
Consultancy giant Ernst & Young is among the first to sign up to it, to help its own employees and other businesses return to work.
Ernst & Young has a substantial travel team with a global spend of $2.2 billion on travel, meetings and events. Once trialled internally, it’s likely it will roll out the platform to its corporate clients looking to get staff back out on the road.
Bizagi CEO Gustavo Gomez told Skift this is an example of the app being used in the private sector, but it also wants to collaborate with health authorities around the world to help pave the way for international travel to resume as seamlessly as possible. The platform even has a “travel request process” built in.
As pharmaceutical companies work on developing a vaccine, Gomez said the app would use a points-based system based on test results.
Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche is due to develop a reliable immunity test for early May, while other independent tests are available. Gomez said CoronaPass can factor in results from more than one test, and if someone passes all of them, it increases that person’s score.
The World Health Organization also ranks countries on the quality of their health systems. “The UK may only accept ratings of 65 points, so even if the pass is valid, the person may be coming from a country where the quality of testing is not good enough for the UK, so unfortunately you cannot fly. Ratings are an important aspect,” Gomez said.
“The other consideration is, how do we embed this into the booking site of British Airways, for example? Until a vaccine is found, the airline may say we will only allow bookings from people above a certain rating.”
Gomez is talking with various countries, but to date no one has signed up.
POINT TO POINT
Wide-scale country recognition will be critical for travel managers running international programs.
“If this sort of thing becomes readily available, and it’s verified with authorities, it’s something we’ll look at,” said Michael McSperrin, global head of facilities and support services at Alexander Mann Solutions.
The recruitment company, like most organizations, has implemented a global ban on travel. “That worked well. But the biggest thing for us is, without knowing what authorities are going to agree to, or not agree to, we’ll have to adapt. There’ll be a slow return, and we’ll adapt our policies and settings to that. We’ll need to rely on our travel agency, Egencia, to make sure we’ve got the functionality to do that,” he said.
“The CoronaPass only really works if there’s a way of getting testing done, and there’s validation, and a guarantee it’s accepted by authorities. It’s something for further down the line when you’ve got a larger volume of travel. We wouldn’t use it from the get-go.”
Another question for travel managers with a corporate social responsibility is determining which employees will travel first. McSperrin added: “We may also have to look at the age of their travelers. How do you manage that, because an employer has a duty of care, but are you then at risk of discrimination?”
Elsewhere, one travel manager is also calling for an independent company to regulate immunity control.
“We will see something similar to the Transportation Security Administration with its Trusted Traveler programs coming in,” said Ben Park, director of global procurement and travel at pharmaceutical firm Parexel.
Speaking at FCM Travel Solutions’ “What Covid-19 taught us about travel risk management” webinar last week, he added: “So it will ask ‘are you a risk traveler, or a healthy traveler?’. This will be critical, because you’re getting sensitive data, so it’s a totally different level.”
The Trusted Traveler Programs comprise risk-based schemes that speed up the entry of pre-approved travelers, and applicants are vetted to ensure that they meet certain qualifications. But Park believes a new third party could break into the corporate travel sector.
“A company that knows the restrictions, the nationality of the passenger, knows their history, and can then tell us whether this person can easily travel. People might need documentation that they need to work in a certain place to conduct business. We need to think about this process,” he said.
STAMP OF APPROVAL
The crisis looks set to accelerate one concept that has been in the making for several years — One ID. This scheme proposes a document-free process based on identity management and biometric recognition, and could factor in immunity-based data.
It’s being run by the International Air Transport Association, which envisages passengers will one day be able to identify themselves at each airport touchpoint through a simple biometric recognition.
“Travelers, business or otherwise, will need to get comfortable on the risk of being near other people, in the airport or on a plane,” said Irra Ariella Khi, CEO of Zamna — one of One ID’s technology partners. It claims it has developed the world’s first biometric and advance passenger information validation platform for airlines and governments.
“The airlines themselves have to make sure the risks to their cabin crew and staff on the ground is worth taking. So no matter what happens with individual countries deciding what version of a passport of immunity document is good enough, the risk has to be agreed by all participants. So by the country you’re departing from, the airline operating it, and the receiving country,” she said.
“There are so moving parts of the end-to-end journey. Everyone will have to say, we are happy that this passenger has assured us of his information being accurate, and not risky, to the point of we’re going to take a risk and fly them from government A, on this plane, to government B, and we know he will get through this process end to end, because everyone agreed he meets the risk assessment.”
Travel managers will be wary of signing up to a scheme that could compromise their traveler’s personal details, either from hackers or governments that might want to store details — but Ariella Khi downplays privacy concerns.
“If all governments got together, and told each other what data they’ve issued, suddenly you’ve created a global big brother…. and a target for criminals as it’s a honeypot of data. Zamna does not put everyone into a giant cauldron of data that can be compared to each other,” she said.
“We’ve already validated over 10 million different passenger data sets, without ever seeing or storing a copy of their data, and without creating big brother. That capability of being able to connect the dots, but not knowing what the dots are, that’s what we’ve provided to the governments and airlines we work with.”
Ariella Khi agrees with Parexel’s Park, saying storing health data isn’t without risk.
“COVID-19 is not the first dangerous disease to emerge. It will have to have a layer of consideration. You can’t just add in a layer saying, have you had Covid-19? How are you going to check that what they’re saying is the reality?
“All medical authorities and organizations will have to follow a standard, whether it’s if you’ve had it, or antibody level count, or having a vaccination, that thing is what we will accept as a condition of entry to the country. Airlines can’t do anything until individual countries start creating their requirement data, and that doesn’t exist yet.”
Photo credit: Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority test Tunisia-bound passengers for COVID-19 before departing Dubai. Emirates