Austrian Airlines made this announcement:
On November 12, 2020, Austrian Airlines is starting a further testing phase on flights OS171 (Vienna-Hamburg) and OS172 (Hamburg-Vienna) in order to integrate COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in the travel chain.
The first phase of the project is currently underway and will last until November 8, 2020. In this case, passengers are offered the possibility to undergo the tests on a voluntary basis. In the next step, tests will be obligatory for passengers and the crew on selected flights. This ensures that all persons on board have tested negative for COVID-19. The implementation of the free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests will take place in close cooperation with the Lufthansa Group as well as the respective airports in Vienna and Hamburg. After taking the test, passengers will receive their results within 10-15 minutes, either via SMS or, upon request, also after consulting medically trained staff. The boarding card is only activated if the test result is negative, enabling the passenger to gain entry to the security area and the gate. If the test result is positive, the affected passenger will be taken care of by the airport medical service in order to fully clarify the individual’s medical condition. Further steps will be specified with the responsible health authorities. In this case, the passenger will be able to rebook or cancel his or her Austrian Airlines flight at no cost.
“About 25 percent of the passengers volunteered to have themselves tested in the first testing phase”, explained Austrian Airlines COO Jens Ritter. “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.
“Economy and tourism urgently need more freedom to travel. We therefore need solutions that offer security and can be integrated into the travel process. Rapid antigen testing is a way out of the Covid-19 crisis. The test operation at Vienna Airport works very well and we are pleased that Austrian is now expanding this offer to the Hamburg connection”, stated Julian Jäger, Member of the Management Board of the airport operating company Flughafen Wien AG.
The COVID-19 rapid antigen test is performed at the testing center at Vienna Airport or Hamburg by expert medical personnel. Vienna International Airport has set up a test center for this purpose in the check-in area of Terminal 3, near counter 370. The tests are carried out by medical staff of the airport. Passengers can take the test before departure without having made an appointment in advance. When departing from Hamburg, it is possible to register online in advance and thus reduce waiting times. Passengers are requested to come to the respective testing center two hours before departure. The test results are checked by the gate personnel during the boarding process. No data is exchanged, noted down or passed on. These flights can only be boarded with negative COVID-19 test results. Alternatively, Austrian Airlines also accept negative PCR test results which are not older than 48 hours at departure. In this case as well, passengers are also requested to report to the testing center.
The pilot phase of the mandatory COVID-19 tests is currently scheduled to last until the end of November 2020. The underlying aim of the pilot project is to optimally integrate the testing procedure in the passengers’ travel process and design it in such a manner as to be as pleasant as possible. The testing program represents a Group-wide pilot project of the Lufthansa Group. It should enable intercontinental mobility and the freedom to travel, also during the coronavirus pandemic, and while maintaining health protection. 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 with rapid antigen tests are marked accordingly
All flights operated as so-called “COVID-19 Tested Flights” are designated accordingly on the Austrian Airlines website so that they can already be identified as such during the booking process. Moreover, passengers are provided with information before departure via a pre-flight e-mail and check-in invitation. At the present time, the rapid COVID-19 antigen tests do not replace the PCR tests mandated by health authorities. This means that all passengers must continue to adhere to local entry regulations. The obligation to wear masks on board Austrian Airlines flights as well as at airports remains in force, with the exception of children under the age of six and passengers who can present the appropriate medical declaration.