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Could testing before flying internationally become the new norm? IATA would like to see it that way. 

The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, is reporting that international travel in 2020 is down a whopping 92% from last year and that massive decrease is crippling economies and livelihoods on every corner of the planet.

As countries start to reopen across the globe, many have imposed unmanageable quarantines that make travel impractical and dissuade most travelers. Some nations even change the lists of who needs to quarantine upon arrival so frequently, it makes confidently booking any type of travel an anxious task.

empty terminal in JFK airport

This is why IATA is calling for a harmonized pre-flight testing requirement across all worldwide airports in order to dissolve the current quarantine requirements and jump-start the shattered tourism industry.

They are proposing “the development and deployment of rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure as an alternative to quarantine measures in order to re-establish global air connectivity.”

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO stated:

 “The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure. This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work,”

Covid testing is getting faster, cheaper, and more accurate by the day, which is why IATA is pushing its proposal with urgency. Forbes recently published a study citing that $1 Trillion dollars, along with 100 million tourism-based jobs globally are set to be lost from the impact of the pandemic.

Testing passengers before international flights, along with other safety protocols like wearing masks and enhanced sanitary procedures could see the safe return of international tourism.

getting a PCR test at the airport

Not only would the removal of quarantines make it easier to safely enter nations that desperately need the tourism dollars, but it would also remove barriers for nationals leaving home that would otherwise have to quarantine upon return.

Canadians for example, even when travelling directly to nations with far lower virus rates, have to quarantine for 14-days upon return, or face fines of up to $750,000.

Residents of the UK have been watching their ‘travel corridor’ list of nations shrink week after week. Many found themselves stuck in countries like Greece, France, Spain and Portugal when they were suddenly removed from the quarantine-free list with almost no notice.

How The COVID-19 Vaccine Will Impact International Travel In 2021

The removal of quarantine requirements for nations like Canada and UK would also allow nationals to confidently leave their country, knowing scientific testing would confirm their safe and easy passage back home.

Do travelers want testing instead of quarantines?

Iata polled travelers and came out with the following results:

  • 65% of travelers surveyed agreed that quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for COVID-19.
  • 84% agreed that testing should be required of all travelers
  • 88% agreed that they are willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process
getting a PCR test before a flight

IATA isn’t the only entity asking for systematic testing to replace quarantines. Many other worldwide commissions, alliances, travel-based businesses, tourism boards and local governments are also asking for the same.

The Telegraph reported an alliance of over 5000 travel businesses that back the proposal, submitting an open letter to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, pleading for the EU to take action.

airports and airlines looking to test arrivals and departures

While the world waits on an effective vaccine, testing all international passengers is said to be the most effective way to have travel resume in the most ‘normalized’ way possible.

However, a vaccine might not solve all our travel woes right away. With many people expressing their doubt in vaccine safety and already communicating their reluctance to take it, paired with the gargantuan task of trying to vaccinate 7.5 billion people, it will take some time for travel to fully recover.

Will pre-flight testing abolish quarantines

“Many see the development of a vaccine as the panacea for the pandemic. It will certainly be an important step, but even after an effective vaccine is globally recognized, ramping up production and distribution is likely to take many months. Testing will be a much-needed interim solution,”

  – said de Juniac

systematic testing should replace quarantines

The World Health Organization was already campaigning for the further reopening of world borders back in July warning that bans on international travel cannot stay in place indefinitely. De Juniac agrees, stating

“Re-opening borders supported by systematic testing of all passengers prior to departure should be on the priority list of governments,”

Sources: IATA

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