German Lufthansa airline plans rapid COVID-19 testing for passengers

German airline Lufthansa announced this week that it would start offering rapid coronavirus testing for passengers in October.

The company’s senior director for product management, Bjoern Becker, said Tuesday that the new antigen tests will initially be available for first-class and business-class passengers only because supplies are limited, according to Reuters.

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Becker noted that the company is also considering opening testing sites at airports in the United States and Canada.

While some airports have offered rapid testing, major airlines have not.

Rapid antigen tests are cheap to produce but usually less accurate than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and may produce false negatives.

Guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that all negative antigen test results should be confirmed with a PCR test.

Although the travel industry has suffered greatly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, industry workers hope that rapid testing before flying will offer some peace of mind and an alternative to two weeks of isolation.

On Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association called for rapid, affordable testing for all passengers.

“Quarantine measures are killing the industry’s recovery,” CEO Alexandre de Juniac said. “Some 83% of travelers in a recent 11-market survey said that they will not travel if there is a chance of being quarantined at their destination. That is a very clear signal that this industry will not recover until we can find an alternative to quarantine.”

De Juniac added that public opinion polls show a majority of prospective passengers are willing to undergo testing as part of the process.

“The speed at which testing capabilities are advancing tells us that we will have deployable options in the coming weeks,” he asserted, telling reporters that common standards and practices across the board are necessary to “boost” confidence as horror stories continue to come out about a woman who sickened 15 on a flight from London to Vietnam and a flight from Greece to Wales that forced nearly 200 people into quarantine.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of people may have been exposed to COVID-19 on airplanes.