Specialist firm Katalyst Laboratories is setting up testing facilities at several airports ahead of the restart of international travel, which is not due to restart until 17 May at the earliest in the UK.
Sales Director Angus Urquhart told the Travel Technology Initiative (TTI)’s spring conference that the aim of its work with airports and airlines was to create a ‘reassuring environment; before people travel’. “You can set up a mobile testing hub in the terminal or car park,” he explained. “There are lots of different methods of doing this.”
Urquhart said rapid PCR tests, with results available within 60 minutes, were ‘coming to the fore’ and could play a part in testing people before they board flights. He added that the current cost of PCR tests was too high - often more than £200 to get results within three or four days. “Reducing the cost of testing is very important,” he stressed. “The big risk factor is bringing new variants back.”
Delta is offering quarantine-free flights
Some airlines are rising to the occasion. Delta will offer quarantine-free flights from New York-JFK to Milan Malpensa airport starting on 2 April. The services will enable customers eligible to travel to Italy to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival, following a rigorous testing protocol before and after travel.
“A year after air travel stalled to levels not seen in living memory, these Covid-tested, quarantine-free flights provide a real boost to the aviation industry,” said Delta’s President Alain Bellemare. “We are starting to see more global vaccination programmes but, until they become more widespread, corridor flights like this can help keep our customers and crew safer when they fly.”
The flights to Milan will initially operate four times a week in April before moving to a daily operation from 2 May, while flights to Rome will operate three times a week and increase to four times a week in May and daily in June.
A step towards safer travel
“The new Covid-tested flights operated by Delta to Milan-Malpensa are an important and tangible step towards making travel safer and easier for passengers during the pandemic. Milan to New York is a key intercontinental route for our market,” said Armando Brunini, CEO of SEA Milan Airports.
Customers travelling to Italy must test negative a total of three times – including twice before departure. On arrival at Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino, customers will be asked to make their way to the testing facility within the airport terminal where medical professionals administer a rapid antigen test. If this is negative, they will not need to quarantine. Current entry requirements for Italy normally include 14 days of quarantine.
Singapore Airlines offers pre-flight PCR tests
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines’ passengers travelling from London can now book a pre-departure Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test via a dedicated online booking portal, operated by testing provider Collinson. Tests can be carried out at six UK airports or at the O2 Arena and cost £99. Passengers receive their test results through the portal within 36 hours and are provided with a digital certificate and a QR code that is to be presented to airport staff upon check-in.