Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the airline industry has experienced a drastic change in passenger behaviour. Besides the travel restrictions, the economic crisis and fear of contracting the virus have caused a dramatic drop in demand for airline services.
According to IATA, passenger air transport was down 90% year-on-year in April 2020 and was still down 75% in August.
Several airlines have launched COVID-19 test programs amid the pandemic. For airlines, providing access to tests is about promoting a travel demand – which understandably, is at an all-time low.
COVID-19 Test Options
- At-home COVID-19 tests or mail-in tests (needs to be pre-arranged at least 72 hours before the flight for the kit to be sent to the traveller’s home)
- Rapid tests (results take up to 15 min)
- Drive-through testing (results take 20-30 min)
- On-site testing (30-min wait period)
Without easy access to testing, it is unlikely that people will want to fly for the forseeable future. Hence, airlines need to do everything in their power to ease travelers’ minds.
Here are the international and local airlines that are currently providing access to COVID-19 tests:
United Airlines became the first US carrier to offer pre-flight testing options to travelers. The airline currently provides two testing options: day-of-travel rapid testing or drive-through testing 48-72 hours before travel.
Within a week of United Airlines announcing their pre-flight testing, Hawaiian Airlines joined in on the initiative and is offering travelers a choice of either drive-through testing or at-home testing.
Alaska Airlines followed closely behind Hawaiian Airlines and currently offers passengers a choice of three testing options: in-person by appointment, at-home, or drive-through.
Similarly, American Airlines is offering at-home, in-person, or rapid on-site testing.
The UAE-based airline was the first airline to conduct rapid on-site testing, and is also working with various clinics and hospitals in the country to provide COVID-19 tests to passengers entering or exiting the UAE.
The German airline company announced recently that they would be offering free COVID-19 tests to passengers on all their flights on select routes between Hamburg and Munich.
The Asian airline has teamed up with two hospitals in Bangkok and Phuket to offer passengers PCR coronavirus testing.
The Italian operator has introduced what they call “COVID-tested” flights in the hopes to get more foot traffic. The trial was conducted on flight routes between Rome and Milan and now requires all passengers to declare that they are COVID-19 free before they are permitted to travel.
Likewise, major airports across the globe have set up on-site COVID-19 testing facilities which offer both reserved and unreserved tests for the coronavirus.
Some major airports which have COVID-19 testing facilities include:
The United States
- John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York
- LaGuardia Airport in New York
- Newark International Airport in New Jersey
- Boston Logan International Airport
- San Francisco International Airport
- Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Texas
- Tampa International Airport in Florida
- Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska
- Juneau International Airport in Alaska
- Ketchikan International Airport in Alaska
- Oakland International Airport in California
- Bradley International Airport in Connecticut
- Miami International Airport in Tampa
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Vienna International Airport in Austria
- Paris Orly Airports in France
- Berlin-Tegel Airport in Germany
- Frankfurt Airport in Germany
- Munich Airport in Germany
- Düsseldorf Airport in Germany
- Fiumicino Airport in Rome
- Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru in India
- Mactan Cebu International Airport in the Philippines
- Singapore Changi Airport in Singapore
- Istanbul Airport in Turkey
- Hong Kong International Airport
- Haneda Airport in Japan
- Narita Airport in Japan
- Kansai Airport in Japan
United Arab Emirates
- Abu Dhabi International Airport
- Dubai International Airport
- London Heathrow Airport
The IATA (International Air Transport Association) has called for rapid, accurate, and scalable testing access for all passengers. While various forms of testing are currently being trialed in different places, the real solution lies in a large-scale international approach. Testing methods need to be consistent across the board since some techniques such as the PCR method have proven to produce “false negative” test results. On the other hand, a COVID-19 test need to be affordable, since most passengers are currently budget-conscious due to the economic condition.
Either way, in the coming weeks and months, we are sure to see many more airlines jumping onto the COVID-19 pre-flight testing action, and hopefully, we will see more passengers feel safe enough to once again take to the skies.