Inmarsat Air New Zealand aircraft taking off

Press Release: Air New Zealand to study saliva testing for COVID-19

SmartSky - Finally WifI that Wows

Press Release hub banner blue with title in red white and blue

Air New Zealand is teaming up with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to look at the effectiveness of saliva testing in detecting COVID-19.

Starting next week, Air New Zealand employees who are currently undertaking regular surveillance testing under the Ministry of Health testing order will be invited to participate in the study.

The purpose of this study is to see if a saliva sample is an accurate, easy and acceptable method of detecting COVID-19 compared to the current nasopharyngeal swab test. The study has recently been given the go ahead by the Ministry of Health National Health and Disability Ethics Committee.

Air New Zealand Chief Medical Officer Dr Ben Johnston says the airline is keen to investigate how to make the testing process as simple, easy and comfortable as possible for its crew, pilots and airport staff who are tested on a regular basis.

“It’s great to team up with ESR on this trial to see if a faster and more non-invasive option is available as it’s likely surveillance testing for COVID-19 will be required for some time into the future.”


“This study will bring us one step closer to looking at the effectiveness of saliva testing, which would greatly improve the experience for our people who are committed to keeping New Zealanders safe.”

ESR Chief Scientist Dr Brett Cowan says Air New Zealand is an ideal partner to test the science of saliva testing.

“Air New Zealand is joining us on this scientific exploration for the benefit of all New Zealanders, so that we may unpack how this tool can or can’t be used in our unique situation and context. This study will go a long way to determining if saliva testing can be added to New Zealand’s toolbox as we look to strengthen our defense against COVID-19.”

The study will run over two to three months and will take place alongside the existing nasopharyngeal swab. ESR will compare the accuracy of both the saliva and regular nasopharyngeal in their laboratories.