British Columbia

YVR plans to roll out pre-flight COVID-19 testing within weeks

Passengers flying through Vancouver International Airport will soon be able to get a COVID-19 test before boarding some domestic flights.

Pilot program with WestJet aims to give results before boarding, airport president says

A traveller has her temperature checked at Vancouver International Airport on June 18. Voluntary COVID-19 testing will add another layer of protection for passengers and contribute to data for public health officials, the airport's president says. (YVR)

Passengers flying through Vancouver International Airport will soon be able to get a COVID-19 test before boarding some domestic flights.

The pilot program between WestJet and YVR is expected to be up and running within weeks, airport president Tamara Vrooman said.

Passengers travelling through the airport already receive temperature checks and must wear masks on flights. Voluntary COVID-19 testing will add another layer of protection for passengers and contribute to data for public health officials, Vrooman said.

The airport is currently trying to select a test that will provide fast results — ideally before a passenger boards the plane, Vrooman said. 

"We think that there's an opportunity to parallel some of those processes with a COVID health test, such that by the time people are boarding the aircraft, everybody on board has confidence that there's nobody who's presenting with COVID present."

International Air Transport Association CEO Alexandre de Juniac welcomes the step.

"This solution is not only acceptable, it is manageable and is protective for the passengers and for the population, so we say, let's do it," he said. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has previously said airlines need to provide the government with more information to help with contact tracing, as flights carrying potential COVID-19 cases continue to fly in and out of Vancouver.

B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said when officials request data from airlines, what they receive is often missing crucial contact details.

Last month, she called on her federal counterpart, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, to improve the situation.

Vrooman couldn't give a specific date for when the tests would be available.

She says this is the beginning of a process to better understand COVID-19 within the industry and how testing can benefit travellers. 

"We think it helps build the confidence as well as the science for people who are travelling, and also it builds to the literacy and the knowledge that we have as an industry around how we live with COVID going forward," she said.

With files from Zahra Premji

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