Eager to boost traffic, airline industry considering COVID-19 testing at airports

Eager to boost traffic, airline industry considering COVID-19 testing at airports

ORLANDO, Fla. — With the airline industry continuing to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are trying to find the best way to test people before they board a plane.

However, officials at Orlando International Airport say making that happen- with a standard testing system across the entire world, or even just the United States- won’t be easy.

READ: OIA officials push for end to international flight restrictions

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“We’re in a lot of discussions with airlines and others as to what the appropriate way to test...what the appropriate test is,” OIA CEO Phil Brown said.

The problem, Brown adds, is just in the United States, our healthcare system is decentralized. There are different states and counties with different ideas about the best way to make the testing happen.

“And I think it has to be a federal system in order to have uniformity throughout at least the United States,” Brown says.

Tampa International Airport has started offering tests to all travelers, but they’re not mandatory.

Health experts say finding the right test presents another challenge.

“We’re still looking for that holy grail of testing, which is highly accurate, highly sensitive, but the sensitivity doesn’t last weeks or months, is cheap, and has a rapid turnaround time,” said Dr. Todd Ellerin of South Shore Health in Massachusetts

The antigen test, often called a “rapid” test, with its 15-minmute turnaround, is one option. But the tests aren’t particularly sensitive, and don’t necessarily pick up patients with a low amount of virus in their system.

Those in the airline industry believe finding the right system and test could be key to making more people comfortable returning to the air.