Geneva: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments to ensure that high costs for COVID-19 testing do not put travel out of reach for individuals and families.
To facilitate an efficient restart of international travel, COVID-19 testing must be affordable as well as timely, widely available and effective. An IATA sampling of costs for PCR tests (the test most frequently required by governments) in 16 countries showed wide variations by markets and within markets.
Of the markets surveyed, only France complied with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation for the state to bear cost of testing for travellers.
Of the 15 markets where there is a cost for PCR testing to individuals, the average minimum cost for testing was 90 dollars and the average maximum cost was 208 dollars.
Even taking the average of low-end costs, said IATA, adding PCR testing to average airfares will dramatically increase the cost of flying for individuals.
Pre-crisis, the average one-way airline ticket including taxes and charges cost 200 dollars. A 90 dollar PCR test raises the cost by 45 per cent to 290 dollars.
Add another test on arrival and the one-way cost will leap by 90 per cent to 380 dollars. Assuming that two tests are needed in each direction, the average cost for an individual return trip can balloon from 400 dollars to 760 dollars.
The impact of costs of COVID-19 testing on family travel will be even more severe. Based on average ticket prices (200 dollars) and average low-end PCR testing (90 dollars) twice each way, a journey for four that would have cost 1,600 dollars pre-COVID can nearly double to 3,040 dollars with 1,440 dollars being testing costs.
"As travel restrictions are lifted in domestic markets, we are seeing strong demand. The same can be expected in international markets. But that could be perilously compromised by testing costs -- particularly PCR testing," said Willie Walsh, IATA's Director General.
"Testing costs must be better managed. That is critical if governments want to save tourism and transport jobs, and avoid limiting travel freedoms to the wealthy," he said.