Airlines Cracking Down on Fake COVID-19 Tests

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Delta Airlines - Airbus A330-300 - N821NW by virtualpilot88 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

These days you can’t go just about anywhere without a COVID vaccine or a negative COVID test result.

And that’s leading some people who are traveling to get fake COVID tests in order to dodge the high price of the nasal swabs. 


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According to the IATA (International Air Transport Association), fake COVID tests have been popping up all over from Bangladesh to Brazil. 

Border control from Zimbabwe to the UK and Indonesia to Spain have actually arrested people for presenting fake COVID certificates. 

Now airlines are looking to crack down harder on fake certificates as they anticipate a busier summer season. Now that vaccinations are picking up and more people may begin traveling, they’re worried that unvaccinated and untested individuals may just buy fake certificates. 

Michigan Guard conducts COVID testing in Sturgis & Battle Creek, MI by Michigan National Guard is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

How Airlines Are Preparing

European airlines are particularly worried about international travelers passing them fakes and have begun sharing fake COVID tests they’ve been given. Brussels Airlines, for example has been publicizing fake tests it gets.

“They take out the names of the passengers and then show how they tried to make it look like the real document and the techniques used,” a rep explained.

Airlines would prefer to have digital health cards that would show if you have a negative test result or vaccine. This would make it simpler to keep track of who is cleared for travel or not, however it’s clear that people could still try to find ways around that as well. 

The majority of countries around the world require tests to enter them, and the CDC currently demands that you have a negative test or proof of virus recovery to enter the US. Many airlines are increasingly shouldering the burden of checking this, however, not the government. 

In Germany, for example, Lufthansa airline was hit with large fines by the government for letting on people without the correct certificates and the German police claim there have been 3,838 incorrect or unpermitted entries into Germany without the right certificates between Jan. 24 to April 8. 

Other Solutions

Other airlines are coming up with smarter solutions to make sure people don’t present fakes. Qatar Airways now requires COVID tests to be sent directly from the lab to their airline and anyone who does try to give false documents is blacklisted permanently from future travel with their airline. 

“We are mitigating the problem of fraudulent certificates. But it doesn’t mean that we have never carried any fraudulent certificate passengers on the airplane,” admitted Qatar Airways CEO Al Baker. 

Lines are increasing and delays getting worse as airlines deal with this issue. And they are getting tired of being expected to police who has the right certificates or not, which is fair, especially considering the past several years have already been disastrous for the industry. 

“We cannot have either our crews or the people at Heathrow or other airports verifying the authenticity of all these documents. That will take too much time, and we’ve seen queues and processing times moving up by two to three times at the airport,” said Virgin Atlantic Airways Chief Executive Shai Weiss.

So what’s the solution? As with everything these days, the solution seems to be that we stop this incredibly inefficient and confusing government bureaucracy and start using common sense. If the government doesn’t have the competence or willingness to enforce its own rules then what is the purpose of them? 

Furthermore, if they want people to follow the rules, how about paying the cost instead of expecting people to do it out of pocket?