El Al Israel Airlines tested a new COVID-19 testing system Monday for passengers of its flight to JFK Airport in New York, with an innovative new system developed with Sheba Medical Center. If successful, the new protocol could become a new global standard for travel in the COVID-19 era.
Under the trial, passengers, including children and babies, who are not vaccinated or recovering will undergo a rapid antigen test prior to the check-in process. Any passenger found to be positive will not be allowed to continue the flight check-in process.
“We are talking about a three-step process, where every traveler must check off two of the three in order to board the plane”, explained El Al CEO, Avigal Soreq, “The first is getting a vaccine, and the second is a negative PCR test taken several days before the flight, as is customary now. The third element, for people who have not gotten the vaccine, is and antigen test done on the spot in the airport which can identify the unique protein that characterizes the coronavirus in the infectious stage”.
A negative result in an antigen test is an indication that the subject is not contagious within 48 to 72 hours from the time of the test. Performing the antigen test in addition to the PCR test adds an extra layer of protection to all passengers in flight, El Al said. It also means that unvaccinated passengers, who until now have been able to arrive at the airport and fly if they test negative on the PCR, now risk being sent home from the airport if they don’t pass the antigen test.
The trial flight is part of the airline’s Extra Care plan to create a healthy and clean environment on its flights while maintaining Ministry of Health regulations, including disinfection of aircraft between flights, installation of special air filtration systems, vaccination of air and ground crew, flexible commercial policy proposal for flight ticket changes and more, the company said.
“The Extra Care flight plan is intended to place El Al at the forefront of global aviation, not only as a leading company in concern for the safety and security of its passengers, but also for their health”, Soreq said. “The outline will enable EL AL to assist the Israeli government in decisions to open up the skies and later to rehabilitate the tourism industry, for the benefit of the Israeli economy. In the future, we will offer the traveling public a flight with an airline that maintains a healthy and safe flight environment”.
Meanwhile, travelers arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport from New York on Monday’s El Al flight reported that the travel experience went smoothly, without extra hassles from COVID-19 procedures.