Covid-19: What if I test positive before my flight?

Covid-19: What if I test positive before my flight?

By Jaqueline Junginger・Last updated on May 25, 2022

What happens if you have tested positive before a flight? If you have Covid-19 it could be that you’re not feeling well and are therefore unable to fly, and want to avoid passing it on to other passengers. You could also be wondering if you need to quarantine, and what happens to your flight if you miss it due to illness.

So, what if you test positive before your flight? Of course, for specific advice in your case you should always defer to your doctor, local health authority, and airline. But we can give you an idea of what’s likely to happen:

If you test positive at the airport immediately before a flight

If you get a positive Covid test immediately before your flight, chances are, you will not be allowed to fly. 

Some countries still have restrictions in place and will ask you to provide some form of proof of vaccination or recovery. If you have neither, you must get a Covid test before your flight — in most cases, they’ll require one as recent as 24 hours for an antigen test, and 48 hours for a PCR test. There may also be cases where you could be subjected to a random Covid-19 test. If you test positive, you will then have to miss your flight. 

Even if the country you are entering no longer has any Covid-19 restrictions in place, meaning that you can enter without having to present tests, proof of vaccination, or recovery certificates, if you have an active infection, you pose a risk to other passengers and staff, and may therefore not be allowed to fly.

If you test positive several days before your flight

At-home Covid-19 test

Sometimes, you test positive several days before your flight or get exposed to someone who has Covid-19. In these cases, whether you’d be able to fly will depend on whether you are infectious or not. 

Generally speaking, you will need to quarantine if you get sick. The health regulations currently vary depending on the country where you’re departing from — some recommend that you quarantine for as little as 5 days, while others will require you to quarantine for at least 14 days. There are also a small handful of countries where you don’t have to quarantine at all. 

Whether you can fly will depend on whether you have finished the recommended quarantine period, and if you test negative for Covid-19. If you fully recover and finish your quarantine before your scheduled departure, you will be allowed to fly. But, if you have an active infection or have not met the minimum quarantine requirements, then you will have to miss your flight.

Quarantine after positive Covid test

So what happens if you test positive and need to quarantine? 

If you are in your home country or city, simply stay at home and self-isolate. Follow the minimum quarantine requirements recommended by your local health authorities, and be sure that you’re fully recovered and test negative before you venture out again. 

However, if you test positive somewhere outside of your home range, you may have to look for a quarantine hotel. Many hotels are already well-equipped to handle sick travelers and have the facilities to make sure you’re safe and comfortable while you recover. 

In most cases, you will have to pay for the hotel out of your own pocket, unless you have travel insurance that covers quarantine while you travel. While there were some countries who paid the quarantine costs for you, the majority have since stopped providing this service. 

In the unlikely case that you develop severe symptoms, you will of course be transferred to a hospital instead. Depending on your insurance provider, the costs of hospitalization may be covered as well.

Rebooking your flight because of Covid

If you have a positive Covid test before a flight, you will likely have to book a new flight once you’ve recovered and finished quarantine. 

Unfortunately, if you have to miss your flight at short notice due to Covid, say, when you’re already at the airport, you will likely not be able to claim a refund or get compensated for your existing flight. In these cases, it’s only possible to get some money back if you’ve purchased an insurance plan that covers missed flights due to illness. There are also some other insurance providers who will only cover the cancellation fees, but not the full cost of the ticket. Either way, whether you get refunded or not, if you miss your flight, you will need to book a brand new flight. 

For those with a flexible ticket however, you could simply change your flight to a date that is better suited to you — if you manage to call ahead of time. This way, you will be able to fly once you’ve recovered, and won’t have to pay for a brand new flight.  

Early on in the pandemic, there were also a few airlines that had special Covid rebooking policies. They were willing to give you a refund or at least waive the cancellation fee if you called ahead of time and required you to provide a letter from your health provider to prove that you couldn’t fly due to illness. However, as travel is picking up, many airlines have since dropped these special measures. Be sure to check with your airline company to find out exactly what their policies are if you tested positive before a flight.

Is it possible to fly with Covid?

For most people, the answer is no — you will need to quarantine and fully recover before you’re allowed to fly again. However, if you have the money to burn, there is a way for you to fly: by renting a private jet! 

Since you can’t fly on a regular commercial airline, you could be quarantined aboard a private jet instead, or be transferred via a special ambulance aircraft — but only if you’re not in your home country. There are some companies that offer these services, though this option is obviously extremely costly.

Stay safe while flying 

Woman wearing a mask boards a plane

Covid tests are there to make sure that you —  and others —  are safe while flying. Even though it’s a hassle (and often costly) to have to miss your flight, it is a necessity. Just make sure you stay calm, communicate with the airlines, and fly when you are ready. 

Did you also know that you can claim for delayed, canceled, or overbooked flights from up to 3 years ago? AirHelp is here to help you check if your flight is eligible — it’s quick, easy, and totally risk-free! Get started with your claim now.

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