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‘High testing costs could stall recovery’

5 May 2021

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments to ensure that high costs of COVID-19 testing don’t 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, it said. 

An IATA sampling of costs for PCR tests (the test most commonly 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 Organization (WHO) recommendation for the state to bear the cost of testing for travellers. Of the 15 markets where there is a cost for PCR testing to the individual, the average minimum cost for testing was US$90. The average maximum cost for testing was US$208. In Oman PCR tests cost around US$50.

Even after taking the average of the low-end costs into consideration, adding PCR testing to average airfares would dramatically increase the cost of flying for individuals. The impact of the cost of COVID-19 testing on family travel would be even more severe, IATA said. 

“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. Raising the cost of any product this significantly will stifle demand,” said Willie Walsh, director general of IATA.

WHO’s International Health Regulations stipulate that states should not charge for testing or vaccination required for travel, or for the issuance of certificates. High testing costs also incentivise the market for fake certificates, the WHO has stated.

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