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…
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)