Daily Management Review

Airlines Pin Hopes Of Revival On Preflight Rapid Antigen Tests For Covid-19


Pre flight tests for Covid-19 that can deliver results s fast as pregnancy tests is the new hope for European airlines for restoring confidence of passengers to take to the skies in confined spaces with shared air
Despite being dependent on government bailouts for survival, Germany’s Lufthansa is currently holding talks with Swiss drugmaker Roche for the purpose of development of so-called antigen tests with the airline targeting to have the test kits in hand starting next month, said reports quoting sources familiar with the discussions.
According to a Reuters report, only passengers with a negative Covid-19 test result would be allowed on two additional flights of Italian operator Alitalia that it plans to start between Milan to Rome in addition to the two that are already flying between the two cities.
The costs of the tests that are administered by health authorities at the airports are included in the price of the tickets. The airline said that these types of flights with the antigen tests will be expanded to more domestic and later international, routes, if this method proves to be popular and safe.
There is no requirement of machines for the antigen tests unlike laboratory-based molecular tests that have been the most common ones for health authorities during the pandemic. These antigen tests can give results in about 15 minutes much like pregnancy tests.
But an uncomfortable nasal swab is required for these tests and the tests are pitted to be less accurate compared to the molecular or PCR tests. It is believed that these antigen tests produce more “false negatives” which could mean that it is possible for these tests to miss a passenger iht the disease.
But more of these quick tests for Covid-19 are hitting the market such as the ones from Abbott Laboratories, Becton Dickinson & Co and Quidel Corp and Roche.
Adoption of alternatives to blanket travel restriction is being urged of governments by airlines even as there is an apparent resurgence of the pandemic in Europe.
The head of industry body the International Air Transport Association said on Tuesday that non-medical staff can administer the rapid antigen tests and it is expected that each of the tests would as little as $7 each and become available in coming weeks.
Airlines are hopeful of being able to convince people to fly again despite the drawbacks of such antigen tests.
“It is to give … confidence, at a specific point in time, that the result is positive or negative,” said Christian Paulus, a Roche research and development manager. “The PCR remains the gold standard. Therefore if there are any questions open, or if the clinical appearance of the person who had a negative test, if the person has symptoms like a fever, then you would for sure do confirmatory testing.”
Having already launched the “COVID Tested Flights” program from Rome to Milan last week, Alitalia plans to expand it starting this week.
“So far no positive passengers have been found,” said an Alitalia spokesman.