Airlines say mandatory pre-flight COVID tests would kick-start travel

New rapid-testing would eliminate the need for quarantine, says airline industry body IATA.

By Bloomberg News, September 23 2020
Airlines say mandatory pre-flight COVID tests would kick-start travel

Universal coronavirus tests for departing passengers offer the only realistic hope of reviving demand for flights in the absence of a vaccine, the International Air Transport Association said.

The 100% adoption of rapid antigen tests, which should be available next month, would remove any need for quarantines that are currently "killing" the market, IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac said on a media call Tuesday.

While the call for testing isn’t new, the outlook has turned increasingly grim for airlines taking stock of a disappointing summer with rising infection rates and restrictions dashing hopes for a recovery.

To date, the industry’s many calls for a unified approach to air travel have been hampered by individual countries loath to surrender health policy responsibilities to outsiders.

Even proposals for so-called travel bubbles between pair of countries have run up against red tape and authority split among various agencies.

IATA will seek to convince governments of the case for rapid testing through the United Nations-mandated International Civil Aviation Organization, De Juniac said, adding that all of its members back the proposal.

The airline industry’s main trade group has repeatedly blamed travel restrictions for holding back demand.

Tests would cost as little as US$10, could be performed by staff without professional medical training, and would deliver a result in 15 minutes with 97% sensitivity, IATA said.

As well as allowing nations to relax curbs on flying, a universal testing regime would provide people with reassurance that fellow passengers were Covid-free. Governments should fund the program, De Juniac said.

Also read: Qantas CEO says rapid preflight COVID tests could restart overseas travel

More airlines expected to fold

Passenger traffic showed little improvement in August, according to IATA. Brian Pearce, its chief economist, said gains were limited mainly to domestic markets and that any advance in international demand was very, very slow.

The aviation industry is likely to see consolidation, driven mainly by the failures of weaker carriers rather than mergers, Willie Walsh, the former CEO of British Airways owner IAG, said in a separate webcast organized by Eurocontrol.

Still, Walsh said that ownership curbs were holding back the process, and the pandemic may spur governments to keep foreign ownership restrictions in place.

“It’s going to be a smaller industry five years from now,” said Walsh. “There will be fewer players.”

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2425

We appreciate that COVID and related Government policies are proving contentious topics with Executive Traveller readers, but we once again remind readers to keep their comments civil and on-topic, and to add value to the conversation. If you just want to have a rant, take it elsewhere.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 339

IATA obviously trying to protect their interest, which I understand. However, if someone catches it in the Uber to the airport, I highly down the test will pick it up so soon after infection. On arrivals test I doubt wouldn be able to as well.

The other point is with 97% accuracy, on a flight of 300, you could potentially have 9 infected people board. If each person infects two others, you have then just released 27 infected people at your destination. For places like Europe and the US that are trying to suppress, this may be ok. However for places like Aus and NZ, which are trying to eliminate, I don't see how that is workable without some form of quarantine.

17 Feb 2017

Total posts 12

Hi Grannular, Australia does NOT have an elimination strategy, your assertion is factually incorrect.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1053

An antigen test is exactly that. It doesn’t test for the virus which maybe around and infectious before antibodies are developed. People still show up with the disease after 10 days of isolation and multiple tests. So IATA wants to become a super spreader.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1053

The antigen false negatives is as high as 20%, read here.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 122

Good to see IATA and a lot of airlines working with medical authorities to restart and grow travel safely. And credit is due to airlines that have kept flying not separating families and business.

A much better and long-term approach than the Australian "national carrier" that just threw its hands in the air and sent its planes into storage instead of having a go.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2015

Total posts 3

Yes!! Finally someone advocating for a practical,  common sense solution. Given existing screening (temp check, health declarations) and increased cleaning and safety measures already in place, a test with 97% accuracy is more than sufficient 

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1053

Baron the 97% accuracy  is for those with symptoms. If that is the case they shouldn’t even be at the  airport let alone on a plane.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1053

Baron most suggest it is closer to 80% accuracy.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 192

It is an interesting move by IATA to shift the onus of providing a safe environment for transport solely on airlines to government and airports.

Not withstanding the much poorer accuracy of these rapid tests considering airlines are herding 200-300 pax into a confined space so a 20% false negative result (and potentially higher in a poorly performed sample taking done by “trained” personnel) meant in a highly prevalent country as much as 40 pax can be let into the cabin due to wrong results. Try enforcing mask wearing in pax when they choose to buy into the false sense of security by the badge of honour from the rapid tests. Then try controlling movement restrictions if IATA convince the governments to adopt these tests as COVID-19 passport instead of the standard but more accurate PCR test in the hand of healthcare professional. 

And how would the airports comply with this? Conventional wisdom would suggest COVID-19 screening should happen before checking in and security screening (otherwise there will be plenty of delays looking for bags of rejected pax who failed testing, just like the IRA bombing years in the 80s) but where would the airport find enough additional space for queuing, testing and waiting for results (minimum 15 mins) while maintaining safe distancing?

That of course wouldn’t be IATA’s problem once the governments adopt their Trojan horse as a standard...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2018

Total posts 15

Hi David

great news......did you ever receive my email to you several weeks back where I suggested this approach? 

Testing is the only path and rapid testing will be no different than checking luggage for explosives.  Logic should mean that also staff will need to get tested and that both passengers and staff can't even get into the departure terminals unless all clear.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 319

Passengers have been arriving to airports, getting on board aircraft and disembarking with illness (unknowing or in most cases knowingly) for decades, and no IATA resolution to enforce any kind of medical testing prior to travel until now. Instead of basic hygiene and compulsory mask wearing which has proved to be effective, IATA are proposing a test that's not reliable to be administered by untrained airport staff. Holly Molly typical IATA, all they know how to do is spend members money on implementing bureaucratic and convaluted concepts and then duck and weave all responsibility until there is another Geneva conference that they absolutely have to attend.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2018

Total posts 15

Hi AT

IATA could also just do nothing and let more airlines go bust.  Your common flu or cold surely shouldn't be compared to Covid-19......if so why is the entire globe in meltdown!  Isn't Covid-19 far more infectious and has also the potential to attack organs including the brain (Parkinson)?  Surely a $10 test is a much better option than contracting Covid-19.  Maybe we can possibly free us from the common flu and colds as a result of advances made specifically to combat Covid-19.

Another genuine side benefit is that airlines are retiring old aircrafts and invest in planes reducing the environmental load by 30%, a real bonus for our world.


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