Beleaguered airline Virgin Atlantic is to test all of its cabin crew and pilots for COVID-19 at least once a month as part of measures to “instil confidence” in the safety of air travel. The airline, which is majority-owned by Sir Richard Branson, however, warned the move would do little to increase ticket sales without a system to replace draconian quarantine rules with mass COVID-19 passenger testing.
Pilots and cabin crew have been taking part in a trial of rapid pre-flight COVID-19 testing since September 30 on flights to Hong Kong and Shanghai. Both of these destinations require crew to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate before being allowed entry.
The plan is now to extend rapid testing to other destinations that require negative tests for crew members, as well as those where such requirements don’t currently exist. In effect, it would mean that all crew would be tested for COVID-19 at least once per month.
Testing would be mandatory for certain destinations.
The move follows a similar initiative developed by shareholder Delta Air Lines. The Atlanta-based airline has now tested every member of staff for the novel Coronavirus and plans to roll-out mass rapid testing in the near future.
Results from the mass-testing program, Delta claims, shows that cabin crew are less likely to succumb to COVID-19 than the general public. The airline put that down to safety measures like mandatory mask-wearing rules and enhanced aircraft cleaning.
Last week, Air Canada also announced plans to roll-out mass rapid COVID-19 testing for staff members on a voluntary basis. The airline is using the Abbott rapid ID NOW testing system that can produce results in as little as 15-minutes.
On Monday, the South African government had to clarify rules for flight crew entering the government after Emirates apparently cancelled some services over confusion with new COVID-19 travel restrictions. While passengers must present a negative test certificate dated within 72-hours of travel, this will no longer be a requirement for cabin crew.
They won’t, however, now be allowed to leave their hotel rooms as part of preventative measures.