Testing positive for COVID-19 before a trip can be a daunting challenge medically, but it also comes with many logistical hurdles. If abroad, where do you quarantine? If you’re at home, what happens to your bookings? Here’s a guide of what to do if you test positive before a flight.

First things first

One extremely important point to note is that you should NOT travel if you test positive for COVID-19 before a flight. Regardless of the circumstances, traveling while infected risks the safety of the person infected and everyone they come in contact with. Even if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 any time before the flight takes off, it’s best not to board the aircraft and inform nearby staff.

A recent incident on a United flight showed the perils of traveling while showing symptoms of COVID. A passenger, reportedly suffering from shortness of breath, died while onboard the flight and exposed multiple passengers to the virus. Needless to say, do not travel if you test positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19.


In case you do test positive, it’s important to find a place to quarantine. If you’re still home when you receive your test results, follow local guidance on how long to self-isolate (the usual time is between 10 and 14 days). If you find yourself away from home or aboard, it’s best to inform the airport or hotel staff of your test result and seek further guidance on how to proceed. You might be asked to isolate in your hotel room or a dedicated facility.

When it comes to covering the cost of quarantining at a hotel or facility, having travel insurance is crucial. Recently, some airlines have begun including automatic insurance on behalf of the traveler. Airlines offering this policy include Emirates, Japan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and others. However, passengers should still purchase their own individual travel policy when flying.

It’s also important to inform your insurance provider of your test result as soon as possible to ensure it will be covered. Insurance usually covers the cost of quarantine, medical costs, and possibly one-way repatriation tickets.  Once you are safely isolated and feeling okay, it’s time to figure out what happens to any flight tickets you may have booked.

Travel waiver

Many airlines now offer a travel waiver in case passengers test positive before a flight. This waiver usually allows passengers to reschedule their flights for free or even ask for a full refund. While the policy is not uniform across airlines, nearly every carrier is willing to allow free changes if you present a positive test result.

Booking directly with an airline does make the process easier since you don’t have to go through a third-party. Once you test negative, you can continue your journey home or choose to travel later.

COVID-19 will likely be a part of the travel experience for at least the next few months, which means it’s best to stay prepared while traveling. 

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