Vienna International Airport (VIE) said on Sunday that it would start offering COVID-19 tests for all passengers flying into Austria to prevent the need for new arrivals to otherwise undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Test results should be returned within a couple of hours and if successful could prove the template for opening up borders and restoring some form of ‘new normal’ to the airline industry.
The Austrian Ministry of Health has ruled that anyone who arrives in the country without a medical certificate confirming they’ve tested negative for the novel Coronavirus within the past four days must go into quarantine for a 14-day period. But with access to tests extremely limited and few countries issuing medical certificates for COVID-19 tests, the order effectively shut Austria off to many people.
Vienna Airport, however, will now offer a full COVID-19 PCR test for anyone who is unable to get hold of a medical certificate. The airport claims test results will be returned within 2-3 hours and the service will not only be open to passengers but anyone interested in finding out their COVID-19 status.
Unfortunately, the service isn’t free and it isn’t bundled with an airfare. At the moment, the private company the airport has partnered with will charge passengers €190 per test. And making this test available won’t yet open up Austria’s borders to non-Schengen residents.
In addition, airport officials said other types of Coronavirus screening, including temperature tests, would continue. Passengers must also wear a face mask throughout their time in the airport.
Vienna Airport isn’t the only aviation business that has experimented with COVID-19 testing but it could be further proof that such measures will be needed as part of an internationally agreed set to standards to reopen borders. Last month, Emirates carried out a limited trial of rapid COVID-19 using pin-prick tests that can return results in as little as 10-minutes. The tests did not cost passengers an additional fee.
And several other countries, including the likes of Japan, have required passengers to wait for the results of a COVID-19 test before being allowed entry. At Tokyo’s Narita Airport, some passengers were forced to sleep in makeshift cardboard beds due to delays in obtaining the tests results.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for an internationally agreed set of rules for COVID-19 to “restore” passenger confidence and enable the easing for travel restrictions. Such measures will likely include some form of rapid COVID-19 test, temperature checks, health declarations and the mandatory wearing of masks in airports and planes.
Some governments have also muted the idea of “immunity passports” that would allow people who have recovered from COVID-19 to travel freely. The World Health Organisation (WHO), however, has criticised that approach, saying there is currently no evidence that someone with antibodies to the virus is immune from becoming ill again the future.
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.