It's already against the rules at every major airline to fly while you are knowingly Covid-positive, but up to now, there was no way for carriers to prove passenger status.
Germany's principal airline, Lufthansa, is taking precautions one step further.
The airline will require all passengers and crew flying two designated flights between Hamburg and Munich to be tested for Covid-19 first.
For flights LH2058 from Munich to Hamburg and LH2059 from Hamburg to Munich, each customer will be given a rapid antigen test that renders results within about an hour.
The airline's executives hope that the new "Covid-19 Tested Flight" designation will yield data that will help the airline industry make further protocol adjustments.
Passengers may opt to present their own PCR test results provided they're no older than 48 hours.
In either case, each customer's result is shown to gate agents for admission; personal medical information is not entered into the ticketing system.
The addition of a testing requirement doesn't appear to be adding much hassle to the preflight period. Lufthansa is telling customers on those flights that if they arrive at the airport about two hours before takeoff, they'll have enough time to take the tests.
A similar testing program has been undertaken by Austrian Airlines. Its testing-protected route is Hamburg–Vienna (flights OS171/OS172). Turns out Hamburg has unexpectedly emerged as a world leader in test-enabled travel.
United Airlines is trying a similar program on one of its transatlantic flights between Newark and London. The trial, which requires all passengers and crew to clear a coronavirus test before boarding, began on November 12.
Alitalia began testing passengers for some flights between Rome and Milan in September.
Not that having a negative Covid-19 test means a person is coronavirus-free. There's a known lag time between infection and the presentation of symptoms. But given enough time and data, the new experiment should be able to tell us something about the practicality of instant airport testing as well as whether it allows stray infections to slip through.
Partly for that reason, customers who qualify for the Covid-tested flights are still required to follow safety protocols, such as mask usage, while traveling.
At the moment, infection rates are surging so uncontrollably that it has become difficult for Americans to secure fast testing for travel purposes, further throttling the travel industry in the United States.
Some airlines are also offering optional mail-in Covid-19 testing for certain routes. On Nov. 23, United Airlines added testing between Houston and ten Latin American and Caribbean destinations, but for those flights, testing is optional and not a requirement before boarding.