Emirates Now Conducting Airport COVID-19 Tests

Filed Under: Emirates

Update: As it turns out, this testing was found to be extremely inaccurate.

Emirates claims to have become the first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers.

Emirates’ coronavirus tests in Dubai

Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) have teamed up to introduce new precautions as of today on select flights. On today’s Emirates flight from Dubai to Tunisia, all passengers were tested for COVID-19 before departure.

The blood test was conducted by the DHA at the group check-in area of Dubai International Airport Terminal 3, and results were available within 10 minutes.

For now Emirates will only be doing this for flights to destinations that require COVID-19 test certificates.

The airline has also implemented other policies to encourage social distancing:

  • Protective barriers have been installed at check-in desks to provide additional safety measures for passengers and employees
  • Gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer have been made mandatory for all employees at the airport
  • Passengers are required to wear their own masks when at the airport and on aircraft
  • Emirates has modified inflight service for health and safety
  • Emirates is requiring passengers to check most carry-ons, with the exception of laptop bags, handbags, briefcases, and baby items

A glimpse at the future of travel?

A lot of us aren’t just wondering when travel will return to normal, but whether travel will ever return to normal. I’m not just talking about demand recovering, but will the flying experience ever fully be the same?

Will social distancing be the new norms? Will more passengers just start wearing face masks? Will there be health screening before every flight? I do think we’ll see some things change over the coming years.

For example, recently I wrote about how Etihad Airways is trialing new kiosks that can tell if you’re sick, and it seems to me like Emirates’ initiative here takes that to a new level.

If COVID-19 is here to stay, will proof of a vaccine against it eventually be required to travel? Or in the meantime (or for those who don’t get one), could tests like this become the norm when flying? One has to wonder…

Bottom line

While the concept of having blood drawn at airport check-in doesn’t sound particularly fun, in a way I find it positive that something like this is already a possibility, because it starts to allow a return to normalcy.

If we can get to the point where this can be done at a reasonable cost and is readily available, then it might just be part of the airport experience, just like going through security.

Comments
  1. I’m pretty certain that some kind of testing will be used in the future for international flights, at least as long as there is no vaccination available. I don’t know if it will be the airlines or airports or someone else doing it, but as it needs to be done relatively close to departure, it will probably take place at the airport.

  2. This is a logical step until the vaccine is available. Once it is available, I will be surprised if some countries let passengers in without a proof of vaccination

  3. Proof of vaccination will be likely when vaccination comes online

    I -wish- the flu vaccination program were more robust and effective to include that as well.

  4. @ Ben — If this is the new normal, you can be sure air travel will remain WAY down. Who wants to be be subjected to all of this when you can just stay home? Overall, traveling was supposed to be a better experience than being at home, but this kinda kills it.

  5. Not sure whether I should call this publicity stunt nice or dangerous. These new blood tests are not reliable and even in the best case can only identify those who have been infected days before. The tests are useful when used in a research or clinical setting. And they will surely improve over time. But to deploy them in this haphazard manner on airline passengers at this point of time is irresponsible.

  6. I am excited to see this. Until a vaccine is available I think this is how international travel is restarted!

  7. Remember when the President lied several weeks ago and said anyone who wants a test can get a test? Not surprised an ME3 carrier is delivering better than he is during this crisis.

  8. @ Ben — Maybe they can expand this to include the “gay test” that the Gulf Carriers wanted to implement? Where does this invasion of privacy end? I certainly won’t be giving my blood to a foreign government EVER.

  9. If this would become a “new norm”, the cost will be eventually passed to the passengers as “COVID-19” departure fee. Look, with any current measures the world failed to stop pandemic and the pandemic is currently burning through susceptible population whether you do testing or not.

  10. I am so glad we have such a great president in the US. Thank you Trump! he will forever go down in history as the savor of this nation!
    I hope everybody joins me.

  11. @James N
    If I’m a betting man, China will be next to require some kind of test similar to this for non-citizens. If the tests are accurate enough (that still remains to be seen, hopefully Dubai is keeping good records and will share the data), it could really open up the skies once more.

  12. @Gene “Where does this invasion of privacy end?” … you mean plastic money, cell phones, social media activities (unless you are in stealth mode but won’t be the case for most), … and much more… no end for sure so best is probably to stop traveling if that is such a concern 😉

    @Demetrios: I tend to agree but kind of feel this is a clever and creative move and I hope they picked up one of the more reliable tests available right now … and will update as time goes.

  13. @ Nancy P. — Not sure if you are joking, but Donald Trump is a pathological liar and the worst thing that has ever happened to this country.

  14. This sounds like a good idea on the surface and may comfort passengers, but from a public health perspective won’t do much to stop the spread of the virus.

    Blood tests for SARS-CoV-2 (like the ones Emirates is using) work by checking for antibodies. Antibodies for this particular virus generally aren’t detectable until 7-10 days after infection. Most people can transmit the virus to others starting ~3 days after infection, and most people become symptomatic around 5 days. So there’s a significant window period where people can infect others but would have a negative antibody test. The big fear with air travel is imported cases due to travelers who are not yet symptomatic or who don’t have any symptoms, and this testing would only catch a minority of those cases.

  15. After the pandemic will the sitting position in all the airplane change especially in the economy class where passengers were packed like sardines?

  16. @Gene
    I think it is great that they can now do a “gay test” at the airport. I’ve always wondered how I’d score on one. OH-KAY?

  17. I am completely perplexed by what Emirates is doing here.

    Not only is there a delay between becoming infectious and producing antibodies… but antibodies should remain in the blood for long after one has ceased to be infectious. That, after all, is how immunity works.

    So if they are preventing people with antibodies from flying, they are potentially preventing precisely the people who contribute to “herd” immunity from flying. In other words, they’re preventing exactly the people I’d want to be in the plane with me from flying.

  18. We the sitting position be better especially in the economy class where passengers were packed like sardines after the pandemic is over to continue the social distance a bit?

  19. @snic there are two types of antibodies that the tests look for. IgM antibodies indicate an active infection (so you don’t want to fly with those people). IgG antibodies indicate that you’ve recovered; these are the protective type of antibody (immunity). The antibody tests look for both. So in theory they should be stopping people with active infections (IgM) from flying, while allowing people with protective immunity (IgG) to fly. That being said, when the UK government tried to use this type of rapid test, only 30% of them worked. Lab-based testing is much more accurate. This type of field-based test really isn’t ready for prime-time yet.

  20. @Demetrios is correct these rapid test kit isn’t designed to be used like this. It isn’t accurate.

    Don’t rely on test that “results were available within 10 minutes”.

  21. let’s slow this down…..

    This Emirates initiative is pure optics especially when today’s “experts” say that much of the transmission is asymptomatic …

    The worst time to make any long-term decisions or projections is when we are in the middle of a crisis and the media is making things worse

    There is SO much to learn about this and it won’t start to become clear for another 2-3 months when things stabilize and – at that time, I actually think that this will prove to be as lethal as the common flu- or less

    Also, there is going to be some point (sooner rather than later) where economics are going to eclipse the health – a country like Thailand and others in the reason, simply cannot live without tourism for much longer….

    We’ll see…

  22. Test results within 10 minutes??

    What about passengers who are infected but do not show any sumptions like fever etc??

    Thats just a big show…

  23. If you believe these tests are accurate, I have some Oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.

    The vast majority of the tests out there have been determined to be inaccurate.

    And putting your politics aside, if there was a test that was so readily available an airline could score everyone they need, don’t you think the US and other countries would have them?

    This doesn’t pass the sniff test.

  24. As a couple others have said, there *are* such things as rapid tests for other kinds of viruses, like influenza and HIV, with results in 20-30 minutes. I’ve taken both kinds before. It’s not entirely true that they only detect infection after you already have immunity… your body starts producing antibodies right away after infection. It’s just a matter of how long the antibodies take to reach a detectable level. There are also different kinds of antibodies that show up at different times. For HIV, the first detectable antibodies usually appear in rapid tests 2-6 weeks for most people (called the “window period” – this is drilled into you if you’re gay and take HIV tests frequently, you can’t be sure such a test means you’re negative, if you’ve had potential exposure in the last 2 months).

    For the current SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus, it seems like the “window period” is just a couple days. Which, yes, means that testing isn’t going to pick up on someone who JUST contracted the virus (although, if they are asymptomatic, they can be infectious, but not *nearly* as infectious as people who have symptoms). But it still may catch a lot of people who do have active infections and not know it. As with all the coronavirus public health strategies, this one isn’t foolproof, so let’s not complain about the perfect being the enemy of the good.

  25. While these rapid tests are not perfect, with up to 30% false negatives, it would help weed out assymptomatic carriers. I think this type of test may become required for international travel to begin, just as it will become common at schools and factories. Once the vaccine is approved you will likely need a certificate like we have for yellow fever. Those who have had Covid 19 may get a certificate as well unless the virus mutates. Until then international travel will be limited.

  26. This is a typical knee jerk reaction which completely overblows the problem. Some issues I can see:
    1. Cost
    2. Availability of medically trained staff & test kits
    3. Reliability of tests
    4. Time used will increase check in times
    5. Actual risk reduction

    Diseases have always existed, pandemics come every once in a while. Some countries seem to have managed to contain the outbreak through test & trace, quarantine and social distancing. These measures work, while this measure is mainly theatre.

  27. I applaud Emirates on making an attempt to keep their passengers safe opposed to whining and looking for bail-outs (that will eventually end up in the shareholders and CEOs pockets). We (US) could learn a lot from other countries if we stop with the hating.

    As far as the results not being accurate because of the quick turnaround time, then the White House is in for a rude awakening because the test they administer gives instant results. Which leads me to the questions, if the White House has the instant result tests then why don’t the hospitals?

    Only the people that don’t travel thinks the United States is so great; because I’ve traveled the world and the one thing I’ve seen is that many countries are doing so much more than the US. We are so busy fighting among each other these days that we are making little difference in the world opposed to other countries that’s working collectively to make their counties great.
    The only thing the US has been great in the past 3 years is great at hatred, racism, name-calling, division and lying.

    Emirates will ALWAY be my first choice of flying.

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