Detlef Rubik is a little surprised when he is suddenly asked to take a corona test. “I had read on the Internet that tests were carried out. But I thought it only happens sporadically.” That turns out to be a mistake. At least if you want to take Lufthansa to Hamburg at 9.10 a.m. Rubik therefore enters the small medical center across from Gate G 34. It only takes a few minutes. Welcome, identity check, throat swab, that’s it. The result is available after a quarter of an hour and is transmitted to the cell phone. Rubik is allowed to fly. He joins his fellow travelers, who all have good news to show: Corona-free.
This is important. Because for LH 2058 the following has been valid for a week: Without a negative Corona test nobody is allowed on board. For the time being, the regulation only applies to this one daily departure – plus the return flight LH 2059. It is a pilot project, reports the Lufthansa program manager in charge, Christoph Leffers. On the one hand, it should give passengers a “feeling of added value”. The tests are free of charge, and anyone who feels uncomfortable despite the repeatedly praised aircraft air conditioning system then has additional security. The hygiene regulations on board still apply.
On the other hand, the airline wants to gain experience. Lufthansa needs arguments in order to at some point be able to put the annoying quarantine regulations aside when entering many countries. Which of course only works if governments accept such tests as an alternative to self-isolation. That would be important not least for the restricted intercontinental traffic – who wants to be locked in a hotel for two weeks? Leffers is clear that it will take some time before such a topic comes on the agenda. But the airline wants to be prepared when the corona situation allows the first easing.
But do the passengers accept the mandatory test? The Hamburg traveler Rubik has no problem with it, and Dominik Schubert, who flies to the Alster for work, thinks it’s “okay”. Lufthansa had given notice two days in advance, and Schubert was certain that he would be tested negative anyway. This is how it should ideally work, reports Leffers: That everyone knows what to expect early on. So far, it has not worked 100 percent because you haven’t reached everyone. But the attempt has only just started.
Of course, there are also passengers who do not agree with the test. Usually, however, they do not appear at the gate, but are transferred to another machine free of charge in advance. So far this has not been a problem – for a test that is limited to a single connection. The next “normal” start in the direction of Hamburg will be in two hours. On the other hand, there are also passengers who consciously book the flight with additional security. And some who don’t care. Mainly Hamburg.
Leffers is convinced that all of this would not be possible across the board. So far, around 150 people have completed a corona test before their flight to Hamburg, reports Hanns-Georg Klein from the Martinsried Medical Care Center, who is responsible for the smears together with his laboratory manager Anna Binder. Three of them were positive. If the antigen test works, the passenger is warned quickly and, of course, cannot fly. This is followed by a PCR test, according to Klein the “gold standard”, which offers even greater security. But it also takes six hours. If the findings are confirmed, the health department must be informed.
Incidentally, Klein reports, another antigen test was carried out on the three corona-positives to be on the safe side – one of which was negative. “He had eaten and drunk shortly before,” said Klein. Then something like that can happen. When was the last time you ate something? This is one of the standard questions in the laboratory. Overall, Klein considers the tests to be very reliable. If you don’t want to be checked at the airport, you can bring a test certificate. However, it may not be older than 48 hours. Since it can be a shock to find out a positive test result, Lufthansa has taken out insurance for every passenger. Their trained employees accompany the patient through the next steps.
The first tests in intercontinental traffic will not be due before the first quarter of next year, according to Leffers. With the hoped-for principle of “testing instead of quarantine”, Lufthansa has its most important market, North America, in mind. One thing is clear: if you get a positive result at an airport abroad, your return journey will not work – which is not pleasant in every part of the world. But Corona-positives are not allowed to travel by air either.