German airline Lufthansa says it will test the practice of offering on-the-spot coronavirus tests before boarding intercontinental flights in an attempt to find a way to get long-haul passengers flying again.
The airline said Thursday it was working with partners in the pharmaceutical industry to obtain an accurate test that could provide results within 15 minutes for 10 euros (US$12). The tests on some routes to the United States are to begin in October, and the practice will depend on government approval.
The company said the routes to the U.S. had not been decided yet. “We are in contact with various airports in North America,” Lufthansa said in a statement. One option is to make the tests a requirement for everyone boarding that flight.
The proposal is in line with calls by the IATA industry association to use testing as an alternative to quarantines to restore confidence in flying and get air travel moving again. The tests would be a way around the different quarantine requirements, such as Germany’s rule that arrivals from areas designated as high-risk must quarantine for 14 days. Those rules, while they can help contain the spread of the virus, are a major deterrent to air travel, industry representatives say.
Airlines have seen traffic fall off sharply during the pandemic and have sought and received billions in government aid. Lufthansa won a 9 billion euro (US$10.5 billion) government bailout but has had to announce an additional round of cuts after a summer bump in vacation travel dwindled in September. The company has parked its jumbo jets and has plans to eliminate 22,000 full-time positions.