Austrian Airlines has outlined plans to implement mandatory passenger testing for coronavirus on selected flights between Vienna and Hamburg.

From November 12 passengers (and crew) on flight OS171 from Vienna, and OS172 from Hamburg will be required to take a Covid-19 rapid antigen test prior to departure.

The tests will be carried out free of charge, with results received within 10-15 minutes, and passengers’ boarding passes will only be activated once their test has come back negative.

Customers also have the option to present negative PCR test results not older than 48 hours at the time of departure, as an alternative to undertaking the airport antigen test.

Passengers whose test results come back positive “will be taken care of by the airport medical service in order to fully clarify the individual’s medical condition”, and will be able to cancel or rebook their flight and no cost.

The move builds on an initial trial phase (which ended on November 8) where passengers were offered the opportunity to take the rapid test on a voluntary basis.

This new mandatory testing phase will last until the end of November, with Austrian stating that “If the trial runs become well established, the airline may offer the tests on a larger scale and extend them to other routes as well”.

Flights where mandatory testing is in place will be clearly marked during booking, and customers will be sent information regarding the process before departure via a pre-flight e-mail and check-in invitation.

The carrier also stressed that the antigen tests “do not replace the PCR tests mandated by health authorities”, so customers must continue to adhere to local entry regulations in respect of testing.

Last week sister carrier Lufthansa launched a pilot Covid-19 testing programme on selected flights between Munich and Hamburg, with the aim of ensuring “100 per cent negative passengers” on those services.

Lufthansa launches Covid-19 antigen rapid tests on Munich-Hamburg flights

Commenting on the news Austrian Airlines COO Jens Ritter said:

“About 25 percent of the passengers volunteered to have themselves tested in the first testing phase. Our objective is to make quarantine regulations obsolete in the future on the basis of a sophisticated testing strategy.

“Mandatory tests are a further step on this path. In the medium term, the hope exists that the use of rapid tests will lead to a loosening of the numerous travel restrictions and make travelling easier and possible to plan once again.”