Without any legal basis, Austrian Airlines will be introducing from November 12th that an antigen rapid test must be completed before departure. For the time being, this is limited to courses OS171 / 172 (Vienna-Hamburg-Vienna). However, a negative result does not replace a negative PCR result required from November 8, 2020 to shorten the German forced quarantine.
“All those flights that are listed as so-called“ Covid-19 Tested Flights ”are marked accordingly on the Austrian website and are therefore recognizable to the passenger when booking. In addition, the passengers are informed before departure via preflight e-mail and check-in invitation. At the current time, the rapid antigen test does not replace the officially prescribed PCR tests. Passengers must therefore continue to observe the local entry regulations, ”writes the AUA in a press release. Initially, flights to / from Hamburg are said to be affected.
Flughafen Wien AG and Austrian Airlines AG presented the rapid test station in Terminal 3 of Vienna Airport just a few days ago. So far, this has been used very rarely, as on-site inspections from Aviation Direct showed. From the beginning, the airline was silent about which flights were selected for the quick tests. In any case, this first test phase should run until November 8, 2020. Participation is voluntary and free of charge, if the AUA flight you have booked has been selected for the pilot phase at all.
The second step will start on November 12, 2020 on the Vienna-Hamburg-Vienna route. Participation should then be compulsory, but still free of charge. With this announcement, the carrier is moving on thin ice from a legal point of view, because linking the promotion to a test result for a medical procedure that has not yet been approved could become a case for the courts. It is also questionable whether the compulsion to participate would withstand a judicial assessment, since Austrian Airlines AG is not a state authority, but a private company and it is a significant encroachment on personal rights, which in any case requires the express consent of the Affected requires. The AUA protects itself in this matter: “Boarding these flights is only possible with a negative Covid-19 test result. Alternatively, Austrian Airlines also accepts a negative PCR test result that is not older than 48 hours upon departure. In this case, too, passengers are asked to contact the test center first. (...) Passengers who do not want to be tested can also rebook or cancel another flight free of charge via the Austrian Airlines Service Center on Tel. +43 (0) 5 1766 1000. "
In a media broadcast, Austrian Airlines highlights the positive aspects of the procedure and writes that this ensures that “all people on board have tested negative for Covid-19”. The free Covid-19 antigen rapid tests are carried out in close cooperation with the Lufthansa Group and the airports in Vienna and Hamburg. After the test has been carried out, passengers receive their test results within 10 to 15 minutes - either via SMS or, if desired, after personal consultation. Only if the result is negative will the boarding pass be activated and access to the security area and gate allowed. If the test result is positive, the passenger concerned will be looked after by the airport medical team for a comprehensive clarification of the state of health and the further procedure will be determined with the responsible health authority. In this case, the Austrian Airlines flight can be rebooked or canceled free of charge.
“Around 25 percent of the passengers had themselves voluntarily tested in the first test phase,” explains Austrian COO Jens Ritter. “Our goal is to make travel restrictions and quarantine obligations obsolete in the future with a sophisticated test strategy. Mandatory tests are now a further step on the way. ”In the medium term, it is hoped that the use of rapid tests will ease the numerous entry restrictions and make traveling easier and more predictable again.
“The economy and tourism urgently need more freedom to travel. We therefore need solutions that offer security and can be easily integrated into the travel process. Rapid antigen tests are a way out of the Covid-19 crisis. The test operation at Vienna Airport is working very well and we are pleased that Austrian is now expanding this offer to include the Hamburg connection, ”said Julian Jäger, CEO of Flughafen Wien AG.
The pilot phase of the mandatory Covid-19 tests will initially last until the end of November 2020. The aim of the pilot project is to optimally integrate the test procedure for passengers into the travel process and make it as pleasant as possible. The test program is a group-wide pilot project of the Lufthansa Group to enable intercontinental mobility and freedom of travel while maintaining health protection even during the pandemic. If the trial run is well established, then one would like to offer the test offer on a larger scale and expand it to further routes.