Image credits: Mufid Majnun
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News Article

Reduce Testing Costs to Increase Air Demand: IATA

By Jorge Ramos Zwanziger | Wed, 05/05/2021 - 09:55

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged all governments to reduce the costs of COVID-19 tests, claiming that high costs would affect the interests of families and individuals looking to travel. Reducing testing costs is expected to motivate international travel, said IATA on its website, The goal is to make COVID-19 testing as affordable as possible, ensuring it is widely available and effective. 

IATA studied 16 countries to see if they were following WHO’s recommendations that urged states to pay for travelers’ testing and observed that only France is doing so. Furthermore, COVID-19 testing costs vary widely across those 16 countries, with the average cost being US$90 and the highest US$208. 

IATA explains that if the average cost of a one-way ticket is of US$200, travelers would have to spend at least 45 percent (US$290) to visit a country that requires a negative COVID-19 test on entry. The costs would double for a return flight. This causes a problem for airlines, as testing costs are raising prices above customers’ willingness to pay. “As travel restrictions are lifted in domestic markets, we are seeing strong demand. The same can be expected in international markets. But that could be perilously compromised by testing costs—particularly PCR testing. Raising the cost of any product will significantly stifle demand,” said Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA. Walsh argues that countries should manage testing costs if they want the international commercial air industry to recover.

Mexican airlines, considering that their travelers need to present a negative COVID-19 test at their destination, have allied with local laboratories to offer antigen testing. Aeroméxico, for example, has allied with Laboratorios Chopo, Laboratorios Lapi, Swiss Lab and many others to offer special discounts to its passengers. Volaris also provides antigen tests at MX$579 (US$28.6) or less at several airports that travel to the US. 

In more optimistic news, domestic demand is increasing, particularly in the US and China, as Wille Walsh explained during an IATA Media Briefing. To Walsh, the announcement that countries are willing to receive travelers who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 brings optimistic expectations for the recovery of the commercial air industry. “At this stage, 24 countries have indicated that they are likely to open their borders, where customers can show evidence of vaccination. And we were pleased to see the recommendation coming from the EU Commission yesterday, […] where they talked about removing restrictions for people who can show evidence of vaccination,” Walsh said, according to IATA. 

Is the Vaccine A Privilege?

Despite the optimism, the vaccination rollouts have come at different speeds for countries all over the world. Countries like Israel and the US are advancing at an incredibly fast rate, while countries like India are not, reports Our World in Data. WHO’s statement regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, made during the seventh meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee’ urges countries “to not require proof of vaccination as a condition for international travel as this may deepen inequities and may promote differential freedom of movement.”

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
IATA, MBN, WHO
Photo by:   Mufid Majnun, Unsplash
Jorge Ramos Zwanziger Jorge Ramos Zwanziger Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst