Lufthansa plans rapid COVID-19 testing starting October -executive

By Allison Lampert

(Reuters) - Deutsche Lufthansa AG plans to start making rapid COVID-19 antigen tests available to passengers in October and is weighing the option of opening test centres at airports in the United States and Canada, a company executive said on Tuesday.

The move comes as airlines and airports globally have urged countries to accept a passenger's negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to travel restrictions and quarantines that have battered demand for travel.

While the aviation industry has largely backed the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests which take several hours to process in a lab, airline trade group IATA on Tuesday touted antigen tests that can be processed on site and typically give results within about 15 minutes.

Abbott Laboratories recently won the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for BinaxNOW, a $5 disposable device the size of a credit card. Some other antigen tests must be read using a small, portable device.

"You know that companies like Abbott or Roche are bringing these tests to the market and we are definitely looking into this," said Bjoern Becker, senior director, product management, ground & digital services for the Lufthansa Group.

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"You will see us applying them for new products within the next few weeks in October," he told reporters during a virtual call. "That's definitely the next thing to come."

Becker said Lufthansa is considering making the new antigen tests initially available to its first-class and business class passengers, given limited supply.

Lufthansa is also looking at ways to expand its network of testing centers to airports in the United States and Canada, given that they are important markets, he said.

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto)

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