Air India Facing Another Hong Kong Ban – Here’s A Solution

Days after resuming flights, Air India is possibly facing its third ban from Hong Kong. The latest ban comes as Air India once again carrier too many COVID-19 positive passengers into the island. But there is a solution to this recurring issue, one that will prevent Air India from being banned every few weeks.

Air India, London, Repatriation
Air India might face its third 2-week ban in the last two months. Photo: Getty Images

Possible ban

Air India resumed flights to Hong Kong on October 4th, after its second ban expired. Under Hong Kong’s COVID-19 rules, any airline that flies in five or more COVID-19 positive passengers on one flight or six on consecutive flights could face a two-week ban.

This time around, Air India triggered the latter rule, with three passengers on October 4th and October 7th flights from New Delhi testing positive on arrival the next day. While a ban is not a certainty, and the Hong Kong government is yet to comment, Air India has breached the conditions.

Air India 787
Air India carrier six positive passengers in the last two flights operating this week. Photo: Getty Images

What’s surprising is that Air India crossed the threshold just days after it’s previous banned expired. Whether or not Air India is banned again, the issue highlights serious flaws in the testing requirements.

Current rules not working

Under the current rules, passengers flying from India must undergo a COVID-19 test from an accredited laboratory 72-hours before the flight and test negative. This test must be the RT-PCR one, a highly accurate test that usually takes anywhere between a few hours to a day to return results from a lab.

India Repatriation
The positive cases come despite strict pre-flight testing requirements for travelers. Photo: Getty Images

However, despite these rules Hong Kong, and others, have highlighted the high number of positive cases from India. This has been chalked up to the high infection rate in India and possibly unreliable tests from India. But there is a solution to keep everyone safe and traveling.

Airport testing is the solution

One solution to India’s current testing problem is mandating that outbound passengers take a COVID-19 test at the airport. Once pioneered by Emirates, rapid tests have since become a lot more accurate and can be helpful as a secondary check.

Passengers would have to arrive at the airport early and take a rapid COVID-19 test to ensure they are still negative. While RT-PCR tests would be ideal, they tend to take a while to process and results may not be ready by arrival. However, rapid tests can give results in under an hour, allowing passengers to fly safely.

COVID testing at airport
Passengers can take COVID tests at the airport to ensure they are still negative. Photo: Getty Images

Currently, both New Delhi and Mumbai airports have testing facilities but those are only for incoming passengers. Extending testing to outbound passengers will be key to ensure that passengers feel safe onboard and countries do not have to worry about imported cases. While no method is foolproof, testing is an essential step to maintaining travel from India.

What do you think about airport testing? Can it help airlines keep passengers safe? Let us know in the comments.


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