Emirates and the government of Dubai have led the way in the aviation industry for the way it has scaled up testing and screening for the novel Coronavirus – and now it has introduced rapid testing for passengers which can return results in less than 10 minutes. Many airports have used thermal screening and health questionnaires but this is one of the first times that passengers have been subjected to a full COVID-19 test.
At the moment, the testing is on a very small scale. Emirates is only operating a handful of flights each day in order to repatriate the citizens of other countries who have been stuck in Dubai since officials banned normal regularly scheduled passenger flights to stem the spread of the virus.
The airline may, however, massively ramp-up its pre-flight COVID-19 testing after the success of a trial run which involved passengers due to fly on a repatriation flight from Dubai to Tunisia. Every passenger on the flight was tested before they were even allowed to get airside at Dubai International Airport (DXB) and test results were returned within just 10 minutes.
Unlike normal Coronavirus testing which requires an uncomfortable nasal swab and subsequent lab analysis which can take up 1-2 days for the results (and sometimes even longer), the test trialled by Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority was a simple pin prick blood test.
Adel Al Redha, the airline’s chief operating officer said the trial went smoothly and said Emirates was “working on plans to scale up testing capabilities in the future and extend it to other flights”. At the moment, though, any extension of the pre-flight testing would only cover flights to destinations where a COVID-19 test certificate is required.
Emirates cabin crew have been subject to full COVID-19 testing on arrival into Dubai for more than a month and are now expected to self-quarantine until their test results are returned. It’s not known whether cabin crew will now also benefit from rapid results finger-prick tests.
In addition to pre-test COVID-19 tests, Emirates has also introduced several other changes because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Screens have been put up between check-in desks to protect passengers and staff, passengers are expected to wear face masks and the onboard service has been scaled back to reduce interaction between crew and passengers.
For now, Emirates is only flying a drastically reduced operation but the trials it it doing now could shape the future of travel in the coming months and maybe even years.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.