As the world eagerly awaits the arrival of a new batch of successfully-trialled coronavirus vaccines, airports and airlines have this week stepped up their own COVID-19 safety measures in order to bring passengers back to air travel.
British Airways and American Airlines have launched a new coronavirus testing trial under the Oneworld airline alliance. It will encourage passengers travelling on selected flights from the US to London Heathrow to take three tests – one 72 hours before departure, one on arrival, and a final one three days later. The airlines said the trial is intended to “scientifically demonstrate how COVID-19 testing can reopen international travel and remove the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival”.
The announcement followed hot on the heels of United Airlines landing its first COVID-19 free flight. All passengers and crew aboard the aircraft travelling from Newark Liberty International Airport to London Heathrow had taken the airline’s free coronavirus test, with all testing negative before departure.
Airports also revealed a wealth of new anti-coronavirus initiatives this week. Dublin Airport announced it is opening two coronavirus testing facilities offering both ‘walk-in’ and ‘drive-through’ tests, while Abu Dhabi International Airport has introduced a ‘Smart Travel’ system that uses artificial intelligence to streamline passenger journeys through the airport and facilitate social distancing.
In other news, this week sees a welcome return after the Federal Aviation Administration ungrounded the Boeing 737 MAX, meaning the jet will return to commercial service for the first time since March 2019.
And finally, Belgium has given special COVID-19 quarantine exemption to one special worker – Santa Claus. Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke has officially written to St. Nicholas to assure him his festive trip will not be delayed as a result of coronavirus lockdowns. The jolly gift-bringer traditionally arrives in Belgium by boat from Spain on 5th December – a 17-day journey – which Mr Vandenbroucke said would be “more than enough of a quarantine”.