BA and American pilot three-test approach
British Airways and American Airlines are set to introduce Covid-19 testing on some transatlantic flights.
The free tests will initially be offered to eligible passengers on selected British Airways flights from New York JFK and Los Angeles flights to Heathrow and American Airlines flights from Dallas/Fort Worth also into Heathrow.
Each traveller in the trial will take three tests: one 72 hours before travel, one Lamp test at Heathrow and a third test three days after arrival in the UK.
BA chief executive Sean Doyle, said: “We know people want to travel but our skies remain all but closed and the UK is being left behind. Major economies like Germany are adopting testing to replace quarantine.
“We need the UK government to introduce a system that allows travellers to take reliable, affordable tests before departure, so they are confident that fellow passengers are Covid-free. For people arriving from countries with high infection rates, a further test on arrival should then release them from quarantine.
“We are confident this approach would open routes, stimulate economies and get people travelling with confidence. The UK’s economic recovery depends on the swift reopening of its skies.”
The airlines have followed rivals United, who this month launched a free Covid-19 testing programme between New York and London. The pilot scheme is running from November 16 through to December 11 from Newark to Heathrow with rapid testing being given to every passenger over the age of two, as well as crew members. Anyone who does not wish to be tested will be placed on another flight, guaranteeing that everyone – barring young children – will have been tested.
“We believe the ability to provide fast, same-day Covid-19 testing will play a vital role in safely reopening travel around the world and navigating quarantines and travel restrictions, particularly to key international destinations like London,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United.
“Through this pilot program, we’ll guarantee that everyone* on board has tested negative for Covid-19, adding another element to our layered approach to safety. United will continue to lead on testing, while at the same time exploring new solutions that contribute to the safest travel experience possible.”
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Grant Shapps has said he is “very hopeful” a new testing regime can be in place by December 1 for arrivals into the UK. The move would mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after entering the country – cutting quarantine time in half for those travelling from countries deemed “high-risk.”
While, in July, the government introduced a travel corridors system – a list of countries from which those entering the UK do not need to self-isolate – the majority of destinations have been removed in recent weeks. “My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed a regime, based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger, after a period of self-isolation,” he said.
Last month, Doyle said that even if quarantine was reduced to seven days, demand for travel would remain low and called for a “fundamental rethink”. “People won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind,” he said, a week after replacing Alex Cruz as head of the airline.
“We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days.”
Meanwhile, passengers flying from London Heathrow to Hong Kong will be able to have a rapid Covid-19 test at the airport before checking in. The tests, which must be pre-booked, cost £80 – with results available within the hour.
Boots, the high street pharmacy, has also begun offering a new coronavirus testing service for £120, which can be used to gain pre-flight approval. The company will be offering two different types of Covid-19 test: one which generates a result within 12 minutes while the other will have swabs sent to a laboratory to give a result. The latter can be used for pre-flight approval to destinations like the UAE.