Flight Plan

Airports, airlines go a long way to convince flyers it’s safe to fly

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on: Jul 21, 2020

A passenger gives a saliva sample for Covid-19 testing at Centogene’s test centre in Frankfurt airport | Photo Credit: KAI PFAFFENBACH

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the global aviation sector is learning this the hard way.

With limited flight operations post lockdowns and survey after survey suggesting that passengers’ confidence in flying has taken a big hit, airlines and airports are going to great lengths to ensure social distancing and contact-free travel.

Taking this a step further, airports like London Heathrow and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok are looking at providing Covid testing facilities for their passengers in an effort to help restore flyer confidence.

On July 6, Collinson and Swissport announced that they were working with Heathrow Airport to offer a pilot of their Covid-19 testing procedure. The pilot, the first of its kind in the UK, means that passengers can be checked for Covid-19 on landing at Heathrow and know just hours later if they have tested positive for the virus.

Test on arrival

All the three involved organisations are hoping that the ‘Test-on-Arrival’ procedure will provide a solution to those travelling from places not included on the list of countries exempt from quarantine.

Collinson is a global leader in the provision of traveller experiences including medical and security assistance and travel medical services. Swissport provided airport ground services to about 265 million passengers in 2019.

“This trial with Swissport and Collinson will provide a much-needed alternative to quarantine for those arriving and should add further momentum to the government’s push for Common International Standards which are needed for the resumption of global travel,” said John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer, Heathrow Airport.

The pilot of the new testing procedure will be available as a private service to anyone with a flight landing at Heathrow Terminal 2. Passengers will need to set up an account and book their test online before beginning their journey to the UK.

The companies claim that the tests are sensitive enough to detect Covid-19 particles even when a passenger has displayed no symptoms. If travelling from a country where quarantine is still required, passengers will be asked to go to the address they provided at the time of booking while they await their test results, which they will receive within 24 hours, an official statement said.

Available options

Similarly, Frankfurt airport has tied up with Lufthansa and Centogene to offer Covid testing. This test, done through a throat swab, detects whether there is an acute infection, with the accompany risk of spreading it to others in contact.

Frankfurt airport is offering two test options: for €59, travellers can receive the result within six to eight hours; for €138, it is available within three hours.

“For an additional charge of €9, there is also the, option to obtain an official, internationally valid verification for authorities in various countries certifying that the test results belong to you and have not been tampered with. This verification includes the travel documentation and the identity of the tested person,” the airport said.

In Asia, Suvarnabhumi Airport is looking at providing a Covid-19 test with a 90-minute turnaround for those who are suspected of carrying the virus.

This is not all. Some countries are also looking at providing multi-modal transport options to their citizens to beat the virus. For example, Austrian is replacing its Vienna-Salzburg flight with a more frequent train service between the two cities as a part of the bailout package which the government has provided the airline. This is smilar to a move made last year by KLM, which partnered with Dutch and Belgian rail companies to replace one Amsterdam-Brussels flight per day with a train service.

Published on July 21, 2020
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