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IATA Calls For Pre-Flight Testing to Replace Quarantines

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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

Read More: See which countries have reopened to American tourists, and what companies are offering travel insurance that covers covid

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flying often

Monday 28th of September 2020

I don't support mandatory testing. Just back from a month in Europe. Munich offers free testing on arrival (although no quarantine required anyway, so only for those interested). Toronto Pearson has a bit of a desperate marketing campaign to have those arriving be tested as part of a 'study. For those not wishing/able to do the 14 day required quarantine in Canada, this may be attractive. There seem to be a LOT of people employed in the covid prodct at the airport. Personally these polls put out do not ring true. For those willing to travel at this time, anecdotally, most say they are not interested. People participating in many of these 'polls' are not travellers and would not travel no matter what

rolando contreras

Thursday 24th of September 2020

is a very excellent idea to be tested before travelling to any country there should be labs or doctors at the airport to do this tests. if I have to pay a fee.for the test I am willing to do it. specially Christmas holidays is coming and the canadian government need to find an easy way to avoid quarantine for travellers. but has to act now. thanks.

Jose Raudales

Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

The sooner the better, as many people can't afford long quarantine and long periods of time off to see their loved ones. With only 3 weeks of time off a year for the average visitor, staying 28 days in quarantine doesn't work and discourage the travelers, hurting at the same time the economy of countries.


Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

Neither testing or vaccines should be mandatory. The so called "health passport" opens the door to discrimination and totalitarianism. Note that the source of this article is IATA itself. The polls made comes from IATA as well. It is hard to believe that over 80% of the people polled would approve of testing for something that it is not testing for. that is why it is called a PCR test and not a "Covid test". Moreover, none else than the CDC admitted that 90% of positive test were "false positive". Why do we even put so much value on testing when they are so ineffectual.

Glen Buterol

Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

This is good to see, but these tests need to be rapid testing then to fit within the tight timeframes (usually only 72 hours) of traveling after you get tested, and many countries will have to stop this ridiculous rule of testing only when one has sickly symptoms. Many countries simply refuse to test on-demand for benign reasons like travel, and even when they do the turn-around to receive results could take anywhere from a couple days to a whole week and blow right through your departure date. These tests are also expensive for many, even for those with insurance. Until these issues are addressed, opening up international travel again, while certainly a step in the right direction, is still going to be severely blunted and limited.