Emirates airlines has started administering COVID-19 blood tests to passengers before they board, CNN reports. Could other airlines be next? The Dubai Health Authority carried out the first of these tests in Tunisia-bound passengers at Dubai International Airport today, per an Emirates statement. The tests yielded results in 10 minutes’ time. Emirates says it’s the first airline to debut rapid COVID-19 testing for passengers.
Chief operating officer Adel Al Redha said in the statement that the airline plans to scale up testing and roll it out to other flights, allowing travelers to countries that mandate COVID-19 test certificates to get instant results. But whether it would bar them from boarding, depending on their results, remains unclear, CNN notes.
The COVID-19 pandemic could transform air travel as we know it.
As CNN points out, and as Mic has reported in a previous story, such blood tests are designed to detect proteins called antibodies that help fight the novel coronavirus, which would indicate that you were infected with the virus and may have immunity against it. But they can’t tell you whether you have an active infection, and as Mic notes, it may take a few weeks before you make enough antibodies for the tests to even detect. That means if you get tested before then, you might receive a negative reading, even if you were, in fact, exposed to the virus.
Despite these limitations, CNN says air travelers may view the tests as a reassuring measure, and it’s not a stretch to predict that other airlines will follow suit. In an April 6 statement, Etihad Airways announced plans to test-run self-service kiosks at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi from late April through May. Designed to help determine whether travelers are in the beginning stages of COVID-19, or have other medical conditions, they would measure respiratory rate, heart rate, and temperature.
And it might be in airlines’ best interest to implement effort like these that could help put (understandably) apprehensive travelers at ease. CNN says that amid travel bans and stay-at-home orders, international air travel has nearly screeched to a halt — and airlines are feeling the pinch: Revenue from passengers will decline by $314 billion this year, according to an International Air Transport Association analysis.
On the other side of this, pre-boarding temperature checks, blood tests, and similar measures may very well become our new reality. Not unlike how September 11 drastically tightened airport security, the COVID-19 pandemic could transform air travel as we know it.