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It Would Cost $2,600 Per Flight to Test Flight Attendants and Pilots for COVID-19, Airline Claims

It Would Cost $2,600 Per Flight to Test Flight Attendants and Pilots for COVID-19, Airline Claims

One major international airline estimates that it would cost as much as $2,600 per flight to carry out pre-departure COVID-19 tests on pilots and flight attendants. Over the course of a year, the airline claims it would spend an additional $950,000 per daily flight if COVID-19 testing requirements were enforced for aircrew.

The figures were revealed as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – a global aviation trade body that represents over 250 airlines – called for aircrew to be exempted from taking COVID-19 tests as part of their jobs because “crew present a different risk profile than passengers”.

IATA didn’t reveal what airline had done the math on COVID-19 test costs but the trade body said the burden of testing crew could become so much that it would hinder the ability of some airlines to restart and build connectivity just as they are ramping up for the mission of the century to airlift lifesaving vaccines to all corners of the world.

But while IATA doesn’t want flight attendants or pilots to face routine COVID-19 tests, the organisation has repeatedly called for the introduction of mass rapid pre-departure testing for passengers. It’s unclear whether IATA wants governments to pay for the tests or get passengers to foot the bill through an additional surcharge.

Aircrew testing, however, is mostly footed by airlines.

In some cases, though, aircrew are being required to take an invasive PCR test before departure and are then subjecting them to a second test on arrival. IATA argues the “intrusion and physical discomfort” of such tests are unnecessary when many countries then lock cabin crew in quarantine hotels for the duration of their layover, forbidding any kind of contact with the local population.

Captain Jack Netskar of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations said regular testing was not only putting “undue stress and pressure” on aircrew but that such requirements contravene guidance drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The guidance was originally drawn up in May with major input from the aviation industry. American Airlines and United cancelled flights to Hong Kong because of testing requirements introduced earlier this year that pilots disagreed with, while FedEx pilots also threatened to boycott some flights because of testing rules.

Some airlines are, however, now embracing COVID-19 testing for aircrew with United introducing regular testing on a slew of routes including between Newark and London Heathrow where all passengers and crew have to test negative before being allowed to board.

Other airlines, such as Delta have offered their entire workforce COVID-19 tests and a number of other carriers say they will test their crew every few weeks.

While PCR tests can be invasive and uncomfortable, other technologies allow for non-invasive swabs to be taken that return results within minutes. Some States, including Hong Kong, have already approved these for pre-departure testing.

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