Airline association Iata has urged governments to harmonise Covid-testing of passengers, warning that the high costs of tests and confusion about what is required risk “causing more problems than they solve”.

Iata warned testing “may have unintended consequences”, saying the “inconsistent application of biosafety measures” and border constraints “are deterring passengers” and slowing the resumption of air travel.

The association noted: “A number of countries in the Middle East have implemented testing, but the disparity of testing requirements along with the difference in costs is causing confusion.

“In some cases a departure and arrival test are required, in some cases two [tests], costing in excess of $150.”

Muhammad Albakri, Iata regional vice-president for Africa and the Middle East, said: “We are starting to see governments in the Middle East open their borders to air travel.

“But those flying face an array of different biosafety measures and procedures which is causing confusion among passengers.”

He insisted: “For Covid-19 testing to be a useful measure, testing should be accurate, fast and scalable, cost-effective and not add a barrier to travel.”

Heathrow Airport is seeking UK government backing for a trial of Covid-testing on arriving passengers. The tests cost £150 a time and passengers could be required to take one on arrival and one a few days later.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) called on governments to introduce comprehensive testing at airports this week.

WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara urged “Governments around the world to begin a substantial programme of investment to ensure comprehensive testing facilities at airports”.

Guevara suggested: “Testing must involve temperature checks and swab tests for all arriving and departing passengers with results back within 24 hours, and only those testing positive should be put into quarantine.”

However, Albakri insisted testing should be carried out in advance of travel “to keep people who test positive out of the travel system”.

He pointed out test results need to be recognised by states at both ends of a passenger’s journey and warned that tests which don’t meet the criteria of accuracy, consistency and cost, risk “causing more problems than they solve”.