IATA: Passenger testing coming within weeks

By Bev Fearis, published 23/09/20

Deployable solutions for Covid testing of all departing air passengers are expected “in the coming weeks”, IATA said yesterday.

The aviation body says it is working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and health authorities to develop and implement “rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic testing” for all departing passengers as an alternative to quarantine measures.

It says testing before departure is preferable to testing on arrival as it will create a “clean” environment throughout the whole travel process.

“By calling for the establishment of a global approach to Covid-19 testing for all passengers before departure we are sending a clear signal of aviation’s needs,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“In the meantime, we are gaining practical knowledge from the testing programmes that already exist as part of the various travel bubble or travel corridor initiatives around the world. We must continue with these valuable programmes which move us in the right direction by building testing experience, facilitating essential travel and demonstrating testing effectiveness.”

IATA is calling for a testing process that can be administered systematically under the authority of governments following agreed international standards.

It said this is the only way to get travellers back in the air, but admitted there will be many practical challenges.

IATA’s latest survey of 4,700 international travellers showed strong support for Covid-19 testing, with 84% agreeing that testing should be required of all travellers and 88% saying they are willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process.

But the organisation stressed it doesn’t see testing becoming a permanent fixture in the air travel experience, only in the medium-term in order for air travel to re-establish itself.

“Many see the development of a vaccine as the panacea for the pandemic. It will certainly be an important step, but even after an effective vaccine is globally recognised, ramping up production and distribution is likely to take many months. Testing will be a much-needed interim solution,” said de Juniac.