The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has again called on governments to take action to reduce the cost of Covid-19 tests, urging “flexibility in permitting the use of cost-effective antigen tests as an alternative to more expensive PCR tests”.

The association also recommended  the adoption of recent WHO guidance “to consider exempting vaccinated travellers from testing requirements”.

A recent IATA survey showed that while 86 per cent of respondents are willing to get tested, 70 per cent believe that cost is a significant barrier to travel, and 78 per cent think governments should bear the cost of mandatory testing.

The association also said that testing “needs to be appropriate to the threat level”, citing the example of the UK, where the latest NHS data shows that more than 1.37 million tests were conducted on arrivals from so-called Amber countries, with just 1 per cent testing positive over four months, while nearly three times that number of positive cases are being detected in the general population daily.

“IATA supports Covid-19 testing as a pathway to reopen borders to international travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “But our support is not unconditional. 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. 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.

For our round-up of which airlines are offering discounted Covid-19 tests, see:

These airlines are offering discounted Covid tests

“Data from the UK government confirms that international travelers pose little to no risk of importing COVID-19 compared to existing levels of infection in the country,” continued Walsh. “At the very least therefore, the UK government should follow WHO guidance and accept antigen tests which are fast, affordable and effective, with a confirmatory PCR test for those who test positive. This could be a pathway for enabling even unvaccinated people access to travel.

“Our latest survey confirms that the high cost of testing will bear heavily on the shape of the travel recovery. It makes little sense for governments to take steps to reopen borders, if those steps make the cost of travel prohibitive to most people. We need a restart that is affordable for all.”

This week IATA also published details of a survey showing that the vast majority of travellers believe protective measures onboard aircraft are well implemented, and support the strict enforcement of mask rules.

IATA: passengers are confident in onboard safety and support mask-wearing