Turkish Airlines Transit Passengers No Longer Need PCR Test

The Turkish Government has updated its new corona virus restrictions, allowing transit passengers on companies such as Turkish Airlines to change planes in Turkey without needing a PCR test.


Earlier this week, the Turkish Government issued new entry restrictions, requiring all arrivals to the country to provide a negative corona virus PCR test not older than 72 hours.

This measure was however not just limited to arrivals in Turkey, but also counted for transit passengers who were simply changing flights in Istanbul or another major airport in the country.

Needless to say, thousands of passengers were completely taken by surprise over the holidays by the news that they suddenly had to get a PCR test for their flight. Without such a test, they simply wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane.

As a result, many passengers were stranded across the world, being unable to secure a test on such a short notice.

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The economy cabin of the Turkish Airlines Airbus A330-200. ©Paliparan

Transit passengers

Fortunately, the Turkish Government has now amended the rules, allowing transfer passengers to transit through Turkish airports without requiring a PCR test. Only passengers who will actually enter into Turkey will now require a PCR test.

This counts for all airlines, so whether you are flying Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, Sun Express or another Turkish carrier, you can change flights at a Turkish Airport without requiring a tests.

Of course, transit passengers must stay airside at the airport at all times. If you want to go into Istanbul for a quick stopover, or use an airport hotel outside of the international departures area, you must still fulfil all entry requirements set by the Turkish Government which means you do need a test.

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Istanbul Airport is dominated by Turkish Airlines. ©Paliparan

Shoddy communication

It’s a challenging time to travel. Even for airline and travel insiders it is hard to keep up with all the changes. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those uninitiated to international travel.

What makes it worse, is how badly changes are sometimes communicated. Although I can understand there is such a thing as a “fog of war” when new government restrictions are announced and that airline companies might also be clueless initially on how to interpret some new laws, it is another thing to actually send out shockingly bad public announcements.

Take the picture below which Turkish Airlines sent out on social media after the Turkish Government announced that the PCR test requirement does not count anymore for transit passengers:

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The initial announcement by Turkish Airlines saying that transit passengers no longer require a PCR test. ©Turkish Airlines

And compare that to the message which can be read now on the Turkish Airlines website, reading: “Transit passengers are not required to submit a PCR test in Turkey however they are advised to review the flight restrictions applied by the destination country regarding the PCR test requirements, age limits and the duration.”

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The new announcement on the Turkish Airlines website is fortunately much more clear and understandable. ©Turkish Airlines

The first announcement in the picture is just shocking to see as I’m sure that 95% of all the people who read it will still ask themselves: “Wait, what has been updated now?”

Fortunately they came back to it and at least put a clear message on their website what transit passengers can expect.

Turkish Airlines

Although it is not known why the Turkish Government decided to change its PCR test requirement, my gut feeling says that Turkish Airlines bosses must have pressed hard for the government to grant an exemption to transit passengers.

With Turkish Airlines, Turkey has one of the world’s largest airline companies. The big majority of Turkish Airlines passengers are not flying to and from Turkey, but simply connecting in Istanbul to other destinations across the world.

In fact, no other airline company flies to as many different countries than Turkish Airlines does, making it a truly global carrier.

If the change had not been made and transit passengers would have required such a PCR test, I’m quite sure it would have meant a dramatic fall in passenger numbers.

Think about, it would have meant that most travellers having a return ticket on the airline would have to provide a PCR twice. Once before their outbound flight, and once before their inbound flight when returning home.

Providing a PCR test once is already enough hassle, but doing it twice – especially when it is in a faraway country you might not be familiar with – is of course too much to ask for most passengers.

Of course, if you fly Turkish Airlines to a country where a PCR test is a legal requirement to enter, you must still produce such a test before boarding.

Salad bar at the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge at Istanbul Airport. ©Paliparan

In short

Transfer passengers on Turkish Airlines and other Turkish carriers can now transit through airports in Turkey without needing a PCR test, which is great news.

Given how many passengers were affected by the initial requirement of having to show a PCR test even while in transit, this new update of the requirements makes sense and helps protect Turkish Airlines as one of the world’s major airlines for connecting passengers.

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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