Austrian Airlines and Vienna Airport have teamed up to launch a trial COVID-19 testing program. The tests are free of charge and voluntary and are available for passengers traveling on Austrian’s flight OS229, departing Vienna for Berlin.
The trials begin today
Following the lead of many German airports that offer free testing, Austrian Airlines today launched a trial program of rapid COVID-19 tests in cooperation with its hub, Vienna Airport.
The test on offer is free and voluntary for all passengers traveling on Austrian’s flight OS229, from Vienna to Berlin. This is a rapid COVID-19 antigen test for which passengers can receive a result within 10-15 minutes of taking it. The passengers have the option of receiving their test in person or via SMS.
The trial is also limited to a time period: it will run between 23rd October and 8th November this year, in its initial stage. The testing center for this trial is in Terminal 3 of Vienna Airport.
Test results determine if you can fly
Perhaps most interestingly, a passenger who has voluntarily opted for the test will not have its boarding card activated unless their test result comes back as a negative. If the passenger tests positive for COVID-19, they will not be allowed to fly.
Instead, the COVID-positive passenger will be taken care of by Vienna Airport’s medical service team. Further examination of the passenger’s medical condition will be made on site. The passenger can then rebook or cancel their Austrian Airlines flight completely free of charge.
Will this scheme have an impact?
Jens Ritter, the Chief Operating Officer of Austrian Airlines, explained the objective of the project, stating:
“The airplane is already the safest means of transport in the public transport sector. Nevertheless, we want to go one step further, and make traveling by air even safer.”
Referring to the large number of travel restrictions imposed this year, he also added:
“We have to dismantle the barriers created by the coronavirus over the past few months. For the future, our objective is to achieve the corresponding loosening of travel restrictions. However, first we aim to show how a targeted testing program can work.”
Austrian Airlines plans to scale up the testing scheme if the trial run proves successful. This was also welcomed by Vienna Airport, whose Julian Jäger said:
“The entire tourism and travel industry urgently needs future-proof solutions to get out of the crisis. Rapid antigen tests provide a quick result and can be well integrated into the operational process of air travel.”
Meanwhile, the government of Austria has given strong backing to the project too. The state’s Aviation Secretary, Magnus Brunner, said that this pilot project is “a step towards [a] ‘new normality’ in order to give our social life and economy a corresponding boost.”
What do you think of this initiative? Will it become the future of the airline industry that such tests are administered to passengers before boarding, or will passengers be reluctant to engage with this scheme? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.