Can Rapid COVID-19 Tests Before Flights Cut Down Quarantine

Many airlines companies, as well as IATA, are emphasising on lifting border bans and reducing quarantine limits in favour of tests to boost the number of travellers
Airlines may introduce rapid COVID-19 test for passengers before departure
Airlines may introduce rapid COVID-19 test for passengers before departure

At the recently held annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac emphasised that to restart tourism and ensure a smooth future for airlines companies, it is necessary to relax the pandemic containment quarantine rules and borders bans in favour of testing.

And if the pilot projects initiated by several international airlines for COVID-19 rapid antigen tests before a flight yield positive results, it may be one of the ways to cut down on quarantine rules. To start with, the pilot project is running the tests free of cost.

Some of the airlines which have introduced these tests are Lufthansa (Munich-Hamburg-Munich), Austrian Airlines (Vienna-Hamburg-Vienna) and United Airlines (on the transatlantic route between Newark Liberty International Airport and London Heathrow Airport).

Passengers agreeing to take the test will have to arrive early (check with the airlines for the time and if pre-registration is required) to take the test. Results are expected to be received within one hour (30 to 60 minutes according to Lufthansa, 10 to 40 minutes according to Austrian Airlines). Passengers with a negative report will be allowed to proceed to the boarding gate. In case the results are positive, prevalent government rules will apply.   

Lufthansa said in a release that passengers who do not wish to be tested will be transferred to an alternative flight at no additional cost.

Alternatively, passengers can present a negative PCR test not older than 48 hours at departure.

"With our test strategy, we are pursuing the goal of using the data obtained to gain important insights into the use of rapid tests. Successful testing of entire flights can be the key to revitalizing international air traffic," said Christina Foerster, Lufthansa Group Executive Board Member for Customer, IT & Corporate Responsibility.

United Airlines will be checking customers over the age of two and all crew members on select flights which are part of the pilot project.  

Even if the pilot testing programmes are successful and airlines companies will likely roll them out on more flights, checks and balances such as wearing of masks, sanitisation and distancing norms will be in place, said the airline companies.

In most cases, the quarantine rules may be relaxed if the experiments meet with success, expect the airline companies.

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