Vienna Airport To Offer COVID-19 Testing, With A Catch

Filed Under: Austrian

Air travel may never return to the pre-COVID-19 normal in terms of what the passenger experience is like. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it’s safe to assume we’re going to see the aviation industry test all kinds of things.

We’ve seen airlines make face masks mandatory, we’ve seen Etihad start trialing temperature checks at check-in kiosks, we’ve seen Emirates perform pre-flight rapid COVID-19 testing, and we’ve seen Hong Kong Airport test disinfecting machines.

Well, Vienna Airport is introducing something tomorrow that has the potential to get us back in the air… sort of.

Vienna Airport introduces COVID-19 tests

As reported by Reuters, as of Monday, May 4, 2020, Vienna Airport will be offering molecular biological COVID-19 tests, and results will be available within two to three hours.

Up until now, those arriving at the airport have had to present a health certificate showing a negative COVID-19 result that’s no more than four days old, or otherwise go into quarantine.

With these new tests:

  • Arriving passengers will be able to get tested so that they can avoid the mandatory quarantine
  • Departing passengers can also get tested, if they’re traveling to a destination that requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test

How expensive are COVID-19 tests?

This is the big catch — the tests at Vienna Airport aren’t free. The airport is charging 190EUR for the test, or about 210USD. Perhaps it’s a small price to pay for a business traveler or essential traveler if this allows them to go, but that’s a pretty penny for your average tourist.

Is this what’s needed to get back to flying?

I think this perfectly highlights a process that could get people back flying, though there are three massive logistical hurdles:

  • The cost — 190EUR is cost prohibitive for many
  • The wait — waiting two to three hours isn’t the end of the world, though if every passenger were tested, that would get much more complicated
  • The availability — there are enough test kits at this cost, but there aren’t enough test kits for everyone in the world who is flying to easily get tested

For now this works because it’s expensive — that limits demand, simplifies logistics, and means there’s sufficient test availability. For those who are willing to pay, this could be a game changer (assuming countries were to let people in without quarantine if they could prove test results).

But if this became part of the overall process, it would be much more complicated…

Bottom line

Vienna Airport is offering COVID-19 tests for 190EUR. While this is a useful innovation, it’s also cost prohibitive for many travelers. That’s probably what makes this practical for now, though a test this expensive isn’t really a long-term solution to getting people back in the air.

How do you see COVID-19 testing at airports evolving?

(Tip of the hat to Sorin)

  1. Yes but then you get on the plane and the person in catering had it 🙁

    I’d be happy to pay though but need guarantees 🙂

  2. I have a flight to Malta from Vienna airport on 4th June, the return flight was around 50 euros .
    so 190 euros for a test must be a joke.

  3. You have to pay to play. Sounds reasonable to me. Can they do that at all major international airports before one exit immigration area? It would make traveling for the later half of the year much simpler and more worry free as one get on an enclosed metal tube. This will eliminate most leisure travelers hence decrease traveling crowd in general. In fact, I would argue they need to increase the price higher to deter anyone from traveling unless essential and suppress flying passenger number.

  4. Sounds legit to me. If it enables you to get wherever you need to be, it’s still an improvement. I would not expect people to be traveling on EUR70 tickets to Ibiza and back these days anyway.

  5. This will probably be the best way to go for true results. The problem is that any health certificate to certify a negative test done outside the airport can be counterfeited online easily. People will do this, we all know.
    Remember the service animal debacle.

  6. Sounds like a great deal to me. I paid almost $2000 for my COVID-19 test, so with the money I’d save here, I could get a free little vacation to Wien as well.

  7. New Business Model from this airport. Not worth it IMHO although Vienna is shock full of attractive ladies.

    Always a treat for the succesful gentleman radiating power and masculinity

  8. This is nonsense. How did the world completely lose its mind to this panic and hysteria?

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” – Benjamin Franklin

  9. Dubai is so much better, test is free for anyone who may have symptoms and USD100 for anyone without symptoms who wishes to be test

  10. Americans .. to them this would be a dream to pay so little The majority of Europeans will be able to obtain free healthcare and checks. This is a private company carrying checks

  11. And what happens if you do test positive? Is it suddenly mandatory quarantine jail style or what. For arriving passengers where are they put? For departing passengers if they test positive how are they transferred back to their house?

    We need an explanation of full protocols because the last thing anyone wants to risk is being quarantined inside an airport for 14 days

  12. Uh ummm
    And what happens if you actually come up positive ?are you tackled to the floor and thrown into an isolation booth
    Sent packing? Have to depart on a private plane?
    And what about the high amounts of false positive and negative tests?
    My head is spinning

  13. Yes – don’t really see how this would work. How many passengers will book a trip (/arrange business meetings/book non-refundable things of any sort/take time off work, etc.) without knowing if they will be denied boarding at the last minute because of a potentially false positive (or even a true positive) test result?

    I get how this may work at the moment – when people are only travelling because they basically have no choice – but in a business-as-usual environment? I just don’t see it. Famous last words…

  14. @ Kevin,
    Sorry to disagree. I think the cost will be prohibitive. A negative result (desired result) is only valid for a day or so, you could always pick up Covid19 in your next encounter/airline armrest/non heated salad or meal. Is anybody or their firm willing to pick up this fee repeatedly?

  15. For a quick result this is as a reasonable price. Regular Tests are not free in Austria and come at around €120. You can only get tested “for free” if there is a suspicion that you might have Covid.

  16. @Donato actually to prevent quarantine arriving in austria you have to show a negative test which is no older than 4 (!) days.

  17. If I were them, I would require your contact number, test you, and then let you go immediately unless you display any symptoms. If the test later comes back positive, I will contact you, get you into quarantine, and trace your contacts for the past three hours (or however long it takes the message to get to you).

    Assuming you followed the social distancing guidelines, the chances of you infecting somebody during that time span is very limited.

    This way you optimize the process for the general case. The price looks pretty steep though, especially for leisure travelers in Europe.

  18. @Andre: Too bad that if you put the quote in the right context, it is not the pro-privacy quote you think it is.

  19. @Dwondermeant
    I really am not sure what might happen. I doubt you would be tackled to the floor, there is risk to those in contact with you.
    I can also state that at least in Germany, tackling is not done often. I was doing evening before check in prior to a flight to a security sensitive destination. The screen showed an item with an uncanny resemblance to sticks of dynamite. I was gently but firmly restrained till the concern was resolved. Considering the situation, they were very correct and at no time was I assaulted nor felt in danger.

  20. @neaorin: good luck tracing contacts for the past 3 hours once someone gets on public transport (assuming there’s no app yet for contact tracing). And not sure what social distancing you’ll get on public transport on a busy train.

  21. @Sorin: as SE Asia seems to indicate, people on the same bus or train as you aren’t at a huge risk of infection, assuming you’re actually wearing a mask AND are asymptomatic – otherwise you wouldn’t be cleared to leave the airport, and shouldn’t have gotten on a plane anyway.

  22. This might make people feel safe, but is it workable? The cost is enough to scare many away, and the waiting time is a no-go for day trippers who make up a significant portion of travellers. Make travel too much of a hassle and you kill it.

  23. Too expensive, too time consuming and too unreliable. I would definitely avoid Austria. They might as well just say, “DO NOT COME HERE.”

  24. Not sure if you can really avoid the 14 day quarantine. The immigration rules according to have not (yet) been updated. I would be willing to pay the fee, if it was confirmed I could avoid quarantine with a negative result from the test.

  25. The more I read BS like this, the more I’m inclined to sit int’l travel out until the vaccine is ready. I am more worried about the draconian rules regarding the Coronavirus than actually catching the Coronavirus

    Fortunately for me USA is huge and there are so much more I need to visit within the borders

  26. Another money-making racket. Never let a crisis go to waste. Totally meaningless. Again, who is to verify that the ‘tests’ are actually trustworthy. And even then, one day later a person who paid 190 Euro for a test (taken by who, 9 Euro an hour migrant workers?) with a negative result gets infected somewhere along their travels. Then, assume a person pays 190 Euros for the test at Wien, is negative, flies, returns to Wien and three weeks later flies again from Wien, what then? Will people, especially business travelers, pony up 190 Euros for a test 2, 3, 5 times a month?

    It’s another money-making racket. And control effort of the masses. Who, what organization, business, company, government taking a swab/test at a freakin’ airport has your data? Where is any privacy controls. None. That’s the answer. This is yet another sinister implementation stemming from this pandemic.

    It’s all fishy. Beware. Be cautious. Travel by car, train, bus if you can.

  27. Proof, if any were needed, that airports exist only to rip off passengers.

    Tests – how reliable are they going to be? And will the results be accepted by anyone who matters at the destination?

  28. I am originally from Vienna, but have been living in LATAM for a few years. Just a week ago I research the cost of testing to avoid the quarantine if I decided to go back. Most labs charge between 140 and 180 EUR with the inconvenience of having to go to the lab + make an appointment beforehand (wait times of several days atm) .
    190 EUR is a fair price for the added convenience and it is not exorbitantly more expensive than in traditional labs.

  29. For intra Europe travel this might be cost prohibitive but if you’re coming from Asia or the US this seems much cheaper than 14 day quarantine. My only concern if if you picked up the virus en route to Austria would the test pick up such a recent infection? Most tests require a bit of incubation like HIV.

  30. The world will return to normal one day but it will take time.
    The physical characteristics of the virus will be established and 3 Nobel prizes in Physics will result.
    The complete genome of the virus will be worked out so it will be easy to follow mutations and 3 Nobel prizes for Chemistry will be awarded.
    A pharmaceutical agent which blocks the action of one of the important genes will be manufactured. Three Nobels for Physiology and Medicine will be awarded. Perhaps another 3 in the same category for a vaccine.
    Cornovirus will become a footnote in medical textbooks of the future. Unfortuntely this is going to take a lot of time.
    With so many Nobels up for grabs the competion must be really fierce.

  31. Oh my, you conspiracy nuts never give up, do you ? Bla bla, whining about your privacy etc. And oh so sinister, privacy controls, data, contrails…Do you think you don’t completely give up your privacy by posting your lunatic ideas in a public forum like this?

  32. I agree mauipeter. Most of these people crying about privacy and the hardships of travel are probably posting and browsing Facebook at home.

  33. Our company purchaed a block of tests that are FDA approved on an emergency basis that give results in 15 minutes. The cost was $25 per test for 100 kits. A medical person had to administer the tests so that give some hope that were done correctly. Over $200 US seems like a fund raising plan. If they wanted any real folks vising they would price it at cost and everyone would get tested when they get on or off the plane. I suspect this testing will become more wide spread as we move forward for everywhere we go or stay.

  34. I will be flying home end of May. While the price is steep indeed I am willing to pay simply because it beats the 2 weeks quarantine and the lack of testing in the US. Also, keep in mind this most likely isn’t cheap for the airport either and I don’t see this as another revenue source.

  35. @DougG…. you advise to ” travel by car or bus if you can” . Really, a BUS !! like its safer than the airplane re catching the virus from a fellow traveler ? Duh……..

  36. This is legitimate and I think, at the onset, a reasonable charge. It allows those with essential business or needs flying there to wait two hours and pay $210 for a test to avoid quarantine and be able to move around relatively normal. I mean, antibody tests in the U.S. are $119.00 and you have to wait a few days.

    If this is the criteria for going to the EU this summer…I am all for it. Sure, the casual traveller will not pay it. But right now the EU is not interested in casual travelers. However, for those of us that have needs to be in the EU I see this as a great solution. In fact, it also makes me feel safer being there knowing that those coming in either paid to be tested or were quarantined.

    I expect this will be implemented all over Europe. It’s sensible.

  37. Tests in USA: $2000
    Fly to Wien: Flight $500, Tests $210

    Looks like a good AIRbitrage deal

  38. if they would offer it here, I would drive to the local airport (Amsterdam) to take that test. If this means I can travel again I’ll do it in a heartbeat. Not going to happen with current government which is not proactive and only telling us vague things. They call it an intelligent lock down which is in fact just marketing. Basic rights are out the door. Here I was thinking this was a free country………. Now they call this the new normal?? well if that is the case, I need to move to another country quickly. (that’s if that is even possible)
    I always liked that I was able to travel almost everywhere with my passport. That’s not the case anymore.
    You guys always think that we are a very tolerant country, well think again.

  39. For me it would depend on type of trip being taken. E.g., if U.K. introduces mandatory quarantine and has this option, I would definitely take the test to avoid WFH on arrival from any week-long fairly expensive (£4-5k per trip) holidays scheduled over the next 12 months. Cost is marginal vs the cost of the trip and saves the inconvenience of WFH for 2 weeks. Long weekend I’d probably pay at least initially as desperate to travel. Short weekends (2 days) I’d reschedule as 3 hrs in an airport (each way) eats too much into the time.

    I do hope U.K. allows this when (inevitably) arrival quarantine comes in.

  40. I think these tests are a good idea. Glad to see the Vienna airport taking the initiative.

  41. I don’t know where you people are getting $2000 for a corona virus test in the US. Several of our local urgent care centers have signs outside of them that they’re doing them for $150.

  42. Just to note I don’t think the price is unreasonable. ~$200 for a quick diagnostic test sounds about right. Hopefully this helps you understand why you either pay high taxes (Europe) or high premiums (US) for normal health care needs, and why the uninsured simply forgo health care.

  43. Oh please thats a good sollution to minimise the number but to permit only for people that really should travel to do it i dont care how many hours or if its a bit expensive but its still resonable for a must do trip i didnt see my boyfriend from january and im stuck its like not married couple are not real relationship or we dont count and no body really talk about this

  44. Seems to me that the the ONLY interesting test to do in these conditions is the Antibodies test, which is a great thing because if you have the antibodies you not only do not have to worry about getting infected by anyone (*), you can also give plasma to help cure those who have caught the virus. So this should obviously spare the lucky antibodies carrier any quarantine or isolation.

    (*) For the foreseeable future at least, as it has not been proven (yet?) that protection is permanent. Most antibodies for corona-type viruses have been found to be permanent, though…)

    However, AFAIK but I may be wrong, the antibodies test (which I took) only gives results in 3 to 7 days, so it’s not practical pre-departure at the airport.

    For the other test, COVID 19 Positive or Negative, nothing prevents a departing negative person from being infected by someone else on the plane, so it has no interest for any future risk status. As to an arriving passenger, I doubt (but I again can be wrong) that having JUST been infected by someone on the plane would show so quickly on a test made on arrival.

  45. Btw – what about drivers coming in from neighbouring countries?? Are they going to test at the borders and have lines of cars miles long all day/all night?.

    I mean, c’mon now.

  46. I haven’t been able to see my fiance, who is in lockdown in another country, since mid-March. At this point, I have no idea when we can see each other again. I would gladly pay 5x that price to be able to see her again.

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