IATA Chief Says Governments Should Pay For Preflight COVID Tests

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is pressing for widespread adoption of COVID tests at departure airports. It says that this will not only protect the public but could also provide the travel confidence required for the industry to recover. IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac believes the responsibility for paying for these tests lies not with airlines or travelers, but with the governments themselves.

Turkish airlines coronavirus
IATA wants widespread pre-flight COVID testing, and for governments to fund it. Photo: Getty

Testing on departure is what the recovery needs

The restart of air travel has been hampered at every turn by fluctuating border restrictions and rapidly changing quarantine requirements. Without some kind of standardization worldwide, the recovery will continue to be slow and difficult. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) believes that the answer is widespread testing on departure.

Speaking at today’s World Aviation Festival, IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac commented,

“We need governments to effectively reopen borders. And for that, as we understand that they need to protect their own population from the virus, we propose a safe process of testing 100% of passengers at departure airports, through a rapid testing process.”

IATA recently undertook public opinion research on COVID testing and found that not only do passengers support the need for testing, the majority would be willing to see it integrated as part of the regular travel process. The research showed that 84% agreed that testing should be required by all travelers, while 88% said they would be willing to undergo testing as part of normal travel.

Alexandre de Juniac
Alexandre de Juniac is lobbying for widespread testing. Photo: IATA

But who should pay?

To date, the response to COVID testing in regard to footing the bill has been incredibly mixed. In the US, every person requiring a COVID test has to pay for it themselves. Costs vary but average out at around $100 per person.

When Lufthansa opened its COVID testing facilities at Frankfurt, the cost of the test ranged from $66 for slower processing to $156 for fast track. However, from August 1st, the German government began paying for the tests, as long as they were taken within 72 hours of arrival.

Finnair’s new testing regime will give passengers a 10% discount, but not free testing. Iceland’s quarantine-skipping test costs around $70. But Luxemburg’s testing on arrival is being offered for free, courtesy of the government.

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Lufthansa, COVID-19, Testing
Pre-departure testing would keep passengers safe and help them fly confidently. Photo: Lufthansa

With such a mixed response to bearing the cost of testing, the messaging to passengers remains confused. However, de Juniac was clear on where he believes the responsibility lies. He said,

“When the government imposes some medical restrictions or medical measures, the International Health Regulations that have been issued by the WHO say that governments should pay for that.”

Free testing on departure would be a wonderful thing, but are governments really in a position right now to shell out huge sums per planeload of departing passengers?

Heathrow Airport, COVID-19, Test Centre
De Juniac says that governments should pay for testing. Photo: Heathrow Airport via Twitter

The cost is coming down

IATA’s push for government support of widespread testing on departure comes with some good news for the industry – the cost of testing is coming down. The agency is working towards a common standard for testing, and de Juniac says that this will be a much more affordable proposition. He commented,

“The cost of the system we are we are proposing, the rapid antigen testing, is now around 6, 7 or 8 dollars per test. That is becoming affordable. We are no longer in the area of $150 per test.”

What do you think? Would you be willing to take a COVID test every time you want to fly? Who do you think should pay for it? Let us know in the comments.