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Lufthansa expects COVID tests for long-haul flights

December 27, 2020

Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr has said air travelers will likely need to provide a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination before taking long-haul flights. The airline industry has been hit hard by the pandemic.

A Lufthansa airport sign advertises pre-flight testing
Pre-flight testing could become the new norm for global air travelImage: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

Long-haul flights on Germany's national air carrier could require a negative COVID-19 test or proof of a vaccine in the future.

"Personally, I assume that in the future every passenger on certain intercontinental routes is either tested or vaccinated," Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The global airline industry has suffered from a sharp decline in air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Lufthansa is no exception. In an effort to make air travel safer and feasible amid the challenges posed by constant outbreaks and travel restrictions, Spohr outlined a phased approach to the future of flying.

In the first phase, Lufthansa will increase the number of routes that employ rapid COVID-19 tests, Spohr said. "In the second phase, there will probably be an option between a test or proof of vaccination," he said, adding that a vaccine certificate would become superfluous once the requisite level of immunity had been achieved.

No vaccine requirement

Requiring a vaccination to fly, as Australian national carrier Qantas is planning, is not in the cards for Lufthansa, however. "As an airline, we neither can nor want to stipulate that," Spohr said.

Lufthansa needed a multibillion euro rescue package to stave off collapse earlier this year. Spohr acknowledged the airline had seen sales drop by two-thirds in 2020, but said the company's ability to quickly cut costs has left it with "€10 billion in available liquidity."

Despite hopes that a recently-begun global vaccine campaign will help to bring the pandemic under control, Spohr wasn't optimistic that air travel will return to pre-COVID numbers in the coming years.

"We assume realistically that in the middle of the decade we will have up to 10% fewer passengers as in the pro-coronavirus times," he said.

dr/mm (Reuters, AFP)

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