During the COVID-19 pandemic, the major airline alliances occasionally join the debate. For instance, SkyTeam celebrated its 20th anniversary a while ago, and at the same time announced extra COVID measures. Other alliances communicated similar initiatives to give travellers some confidence to travel again. In July, Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam even shared a joint statement on the matter. SkyTeam now goes a step further by joining IATA to call for mandatory rapid COVID testing before every flight. It’s an interesting idea, but how will it work out in practice?
SkyTeam: Mandatory COVID testing
The most important reason for many travel restrictions that are currently in place is limiting the spread of the Corona virus. It is of course impossible to know whether passengers are infected or not when entering a certain country. For that reason, many countries have already made it compulsory to carry a recent negative COVID test. This means that the passenger does not have COVID (at the time of testing). Some governments and airlines however have a different take on things. Therefore, many travel restrictions are still in place.
SkyTeam, together with IATA, now calls for a better testing policy to be developed in collaboration with local and international authorities. Think for example about governments, airports and international aviation organization such as AITA. SkyTeam emphasizes the use of rapid testing as a smart solution. According to the alliance, passengers should test negatively just before the flight to be allowed to board the aircraft anytime when flying. This could stop the spread of COVID-19 via air travel. Moreover, when this would also be compulsory when entering the country of destination. Not only SkyTeam airlines can profit from that, but all airlines will benefit.
“Flying is the engine of the global economy. With international passenger numbers down 92 percent versus last year, there is an urgent need to promote business recovery by restoring customer confidence in air travel through a globally standardized testing solution,”
Walter Cho, Chairman of the SkyTeam Alliance Board
“Passenger testing would benefit not only our members but all airlines and the wider travel industry, by providing much-needed clarity to restore consumer confidence. It adds to the rigorous cleanliness measures that SkyTeam members have already implemented under our SkyCare&Protect pledge to ensure flying is as safe as possible.”
Kristin Colvile, SkyTeam’s CEO
How does it work in practice?
In practice this means that SkyTeam passengers will need to do a rapid COVID test just before departure. In the event of a ‘negative test’ the passenger can travel. It is possible that the passenger needs to test again upon arrival. If that test is also negative, then the passenger can enter the country of destination. When returning home the same process follows. But who will cover the costs for testing? SkyTeam did not share any thoughts on that yet. It’s also not clear who will pay any potential quarantine costs. However, some airlines already offer free COVID cover (insurance).
SkyTeam Alliance currently has 19 members. Each year over 700 million passenger travel within the alliance. They can choose from over 1.000 destinations in 170 countries. Just last year China Southern announced to leave the alliance.
Travelers that fly within the alliance with multiple airlines can go about on a single ticket without any problems. Bagage is checked through to the final destination and customer service is also aligned if things are not up to expectations. Any elite benefits are generally valid at all participating airlines. For instance, frequent travellers with an elite status at KLM or Air France can also enjoy visiting lounges at any other SkyTeam airline.