Can Airlines’ Pre-Flight Tests Resurrect Leisure Travel to the Caribbean?

by Carolee Chanona

Roughly half of the Caribbean’s 28 island nations have moved to reopen borders, including Belize. Facing one of the biggest downturns in international air travel and tourism amid a still surging coronavirus pandemic, Caribbean nations and airlines are hoping rapid COVID-19 testing will help them lure travelers back. American Airlines, the region’s primary air carrier, has announced that it will soon be piloting a preflight coronavirus testing program with Jamaica, followed by the Bahamas. The U.S.-based carrier, along with United Airlines, also announced it’s launching a similar program for passengers traveling to Costa Rica and Hawaii.

IATA Supports Pre-testing

belize airport empty

The Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE).

In its release, IATA called for the deployment of rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure. Previously IATA had backed airlines’ resistance to testing. Previously, Belize postponed its tentative July 1 reopening date on this basis.

“This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”

– IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac 

Ray Caye jump belize

Jump into a Belize adventure at Ray Caye Island Resort. Photo by Kevin Quischan Photography.

Although testing negative for COVID-19 is an entry requirement for Belize, foreign visitors—tourists—have two options. While pre-testing within 72 hours of travel to Belize with a PCR Test is strongly recommended, it is not mandatory. Instead, those without access can test on arrival inside the Caribbean nation’s airport health clinic for a double rapid test, at the traveler’s expense of US$50 per person. Although rapid test results take roughly 30 minutes to process, tourists arriving with a PCR pre-test can access the ‘fast track’ lane inside the airport. Those administered a rapid test proceed to immigrations and customs, exit the airport, and await results at their Gold Standard hotel. If positive, guests will need to quarantine on site at their own expense until testing negative.

Header photo of Moho Caye, Belize by Kevin Quischan Photography


Travel regulations and requirements are subject to change as new developments in COVID-19 arise. It is important to visit before booking travel or visiting Belize.

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