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Emirates Airline Begins Conducting Rapid COVID-19 Tests For Boarding Passengers

Apr 15, 2020

In a move that could be a step toward making air travel palatable to the public again, Emirates Airline has begun conducing rapid-on site COVID-19 for passengers.

The testing began with passengers on a flight from Dubai to Tunisia on Wednesday. The analysis is a blood test with results within 10 minutes. The airline says it is the first to roll out rapid testing.

Emirates says it is working to scale up testing capabilities and extend it to other flights. It says its testing could also be used to provide confirmation for Emirates passengers traveling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates.

The testing accompanies other changes on Emirates. Passengers are now required to wear masks throughout boarding and flight. Gone are in-flight magazines, and carry-on luggage isn't permitted – only small items like handbags and briefcases.

Etihad Airways, which is also based in the United Arab Emirates, said last week that it is trialing new kiosks that can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of a person checking in for a flight or dropping a bag. If there are signs of illness, the kiosk will suspend the check-in or drop-off and alert a staff member. The kiosks are being tested at the airport in Abu Dhabi.

"This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions," said Etihad's Vice President Hub and Midfield Operations, Joerg Oppermann. "It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms, so that they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations."

The airline industry has been hit hard by a steep decline in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. The number of people flying in the U.S. is down 95% since the beginning of March.

On Tuesday, U.S. airlines reached a deal in principle with the Trump administration for billions of dollars in payroll support payments.

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