Emirates Is Now Performing Rapid COVID-19 Tests Prior To Some Flights From Dubai

One of the things that stands in the way of a return to travel is that governments aren’t going to re-open their borders right away or in lock step with each other. We’re likely to see a staggered approach, with varying requirements for each country.

As the global pandemic subsides it will not do so all at once. Some countries will recover more quickly than others. If there’s a temperature and humidity effect that suppresses spread of the novel virus, then South America and Sub-Saharan Africa are in for a rough next few months as Europe and the United States begin to recover.

We may see borders remain closed, for fear of the virus re-entering countries that have largely been successful in limiting spread. We may see quarantines for all arriving passengers. And we may see tests required to show that passengers are free of the virus.

Emirates is already responding to countries that are requiring testing certificates for passengers who enter their countries. The airline says they’re the first airline conducting on-site rapid COVID_19 tests for passengers. Testing is done at the Dubai airport, and results are available in 10 minutes.

The plan is to do testing on all passengers prior to boarding flights to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates for entry. For the first time a finger prick test was used prior to today’s Dubai – Tunis, Tunisia flight.

If this is feasible at scale, then expect it to be a practice that spreads (and makes it easier for countries to require such a practice). Expect it to add to the time, hassle, and expense of travel, but also to open up borders faster.

Credit: Emirates

On the one hand it means a greater ability to open up countries’ borders to international travel. On the other it shows that travel will remain cumbersome for quite some time.

Notably passengers are shown waiting in long lines for the tests – they aren’t social distanced prior to being cleared for travel. So hopefully no one that’s intending to fly tests positive. Passengers are currently required to wear masks, though, both in the airport and inflight (even after testing negative for the virus).

Credit: Emirates

Emirates staff though are protected from passengers via barriers installed at check-in desks, and all employees are required to wear masks and gloves. They’re also requiring most carry on bags be checked – only laptop bags, hand bags, infant bags, and the like can be carrier on board.

Meanwhile 70 miles away from Dubai, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is trialing check-in kiosks that will monitor passenger health – temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. This won’t eliminate asymptomatic spread but it’s one layer of protection to identify passengers who may be health risks prior to boarding an aircraft.

Etihad’s move appears to be designed to reduce exposure of passengers and crew to unhealthy passengers. Emirates testing is designed to satisfy requirements of destination countries that will require it, in order to make travel possible, as the airline does not have plans to roll this out more broadly across all destinations where it isn’t currently required.

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Again, anyone willing to apply a smidgen of thought could figure out why this is pointless and hypocritical.

  2. I’m all for this. Puts the great US of A to shame. Next we will be seeing Singapore, S Korea, Switzerland implementing this. Yeah yeah yeah it’s an infringement on your freedom. Well, your egocentric thinking affects my life. Same kinda pushback we had in the early days when we told smokers, you can’t smoke here anymore.

    Sorry for the minor rant, Gary, but I’ve had it up to here (raises hand to top of head) with these self-centered babies who refuse to do the right thing for all of us in the name of their its-all-about-me freedom.

  3. The problem with this testing is that, to my knowledge, the blood tests in use test for the presence of antibodies in one’s system. Thus, they cannot distinguish between someone that was exposed recently, someone exposed who developed the disease and recovered (and is theoretically immune for a long time into the future), and someone who was exposed months ago and has a natural immunity to the disease. The latter two would actually be the safest people to allow to travel.

    Again, seems like more travel kabuki theater.

  4. There are some reports of this novel coronavirus having a strain that is significantly mutated and now present in India. If those reports are accurate, this Emirates-backed antibody test may turn out to miss this virus in parts and provide false security.

  5. @ Gary — I’ll stay home before giving my DNA to a foreign government. Smart countries will ban this practice.

  6. Do you get locked up and thrown in their Ritz Carlton jail if testing positive?

  7. Excellent. Now, we can earn both frequent flyer miles and get a complimentary on-site rapid COVID-19 test when flying out of Dubai. Emirates Airlines is the best.

  8. I agree with Retired Lawyer. This can only be an antibody-test and they don’t work in the most critical time of the infection. You’re infectious as long as there is a significant viral load in your throat which is mainly around two days before the first symptoms up until a few days after the symptoms appear. Of course you won’t find a significant amount of antibodies in the early stages of the infection. Add to that the fact that sometimes these tests also give a positive for the known corona viruses (the ones linked to the common cold) and you can say that this doesn’t really do the trick. It’s a bit the medical equivalent of the TSA security theatre.

  9. So not content with having all your personal information, the airlines now want your DNA?
    What would they do with all that information~ not sell it to insurance companies surely?

  10. I guess Dracula got his wish if they going to take blood at airports I think that’s crazy and unsanitary!! The cure has to be world wide- not state wide- so we are free to travel wherever we want without worrying about our fingers Being pricked or being isolated from other travelers- Travel is for fun and business not for harassment! I want to travel worry free!!! Thank you!

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