Airlines look to ‘travel bubbles’ for COVID-19 safety and to restart international routes


Besides a passport and a plane ticket, more travelers may one day soon need another travel document when flying abroad: test results to prove they aren’t bringing the coronavirus with them.

Increasingly, mass testing is being looked at as way to let countries reopen borders shuttered as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. For airlines, it could be a chance to lure back flyers on routes devastated by the pandemic.

The eventual goal is to secure certain major routes in a way that reassures passengers that it’s safe to travel. The idea goes by various names, whether it’s air bridges, air or travel bubbles or just bubbles. Instead of a world in which airlines have been able to pretty much pick where they want to start service, air routes would depend on new bilateral agreements between countries.

The arrangement could work in various ways, but one would be by requiring tests of all passengers shortly before they take off and perhaps follow-up tests when passengers arrive. Airlines see testing as another way to make sure passengers know they won’t catch COVID-19 on a plane, even though the industry points to various studies to make the case that chances of transmittal are minimal.