IATA warns governments on high cost of testing for travellers

The organisation believes that restarting affordable travel is essential to supporting the 46 million jobs within the tourism industry that rely on aviation 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments to address the high cost of COVID-19 tests for travellers. It also wants flexibility in permitting the use of cost-effective antigen tests as an alternative to more expensive PCRs.  

The group has recommended that governments adopt the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recent guidance by exempting vaccinated passengers from strict regulations.  

Photo IATA

Its latest International Health Regulations (IHRs) considers Ag-RDT antigen testing to be an acceptable alternative, and states that passengers and airlines should not bear the added expense of these. 

According to IATA’s most recent traveller survey, 86% of respondents are willing to get tested, but 70% feel that the financial burden of this is a significant barrier to travel.  

“IATA supports COVID-19 testing as a pathway to reopen borders to international travel, but our support is not unconditional,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. “In addition to being reliable, testing needs to be easily accessible, affordable, and appropriate to the risk level. Too many governments, however, are falling short on some or all of these.” 

He added: “The cost of testing varies widely between jurisdictions, with little relation to the actual cost of conducting the test. The UK is the poster child for governments failing to adequately manage testing. At best it is expensive, at worst extortionate. And in either case, it is a scandal that the government is charging VAT.”