MIAMI – Lufthansa (LH) announced plans to unveil COVID-19 rapid testing for some passengers as early as October, in a press event on Tuesday. The German airline group is also contemplating the expansion of its testing centers to airports in the United States and Canada, given their success domestically.

Bjoern Becker, Senior Director of Health and Safety Product Management, cited passenger safety and travel restrictions as the driving force behind the announcement. While many countries are still under strict travel restrictions, a negative COVID-19 test can act as an exemption in most cases.

LH is looking to open additional testing locations similar to the location inside FRA.

Current Passenger Testing Processes

Lufthansa has been an innovator despite such uncertain times. The airline group has taken a socially-responsible approach to the pandemic, as a focus on testing will benefit the airline industry and society.

The testing center at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is available to the general public, and at a reasonable cost. LH is reporting all test results to government agencies, recognizing transparency as a high priority.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests are the current industry standard. While accurate, these tests require off-site lab processing and can be subject to delays.

The airline currently offers a four-step, low-contact testing process. Passengers can schedule a test online to receive a throat swab at an airport test location. In six to eight hours the test results are delivered straight to the passenger’s LH mobile application, fully integrating the boarding process.

A LH Airbus A321, one of the aircraft crucial to the airline’s short haul routes. PHOTO: Marco Macca/Airways

Future Testing Plans

The carrier is planning to roll out rapid COVID-19 tests to some passengers in October and will be initially limited to first-class and premium tickets.

Antigen tests can be processed on-site and will deliver accurate results in 15 to 20 minutes. These tests are being brought to market by pharmaceutical companies such as Roche and Abbott and have been recently backed by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“We are definitely looking into this,” said Becker. “You will see us applying them [Abbott and Roche] for new products within the next few weeks in October.”

The airline group is also exploring the possibility of testing sites in the US and Canada, where COVID-19 cases continue to remain high. Becker cited easy access to testing as a key factor in the continuation of safe air travel.

As COVID-19 continues to show little sign of slowing, innovation and creative solutions will be key in keeping the airline industry afloat.

Featured Image: Close-up of a LH Boeing 747. PHOTO: Kochan Kleps/Airways