Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic launch trial to prove passengers’ fully-vaccinated status
UK carriers British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have teamed up with Heathrow Airport to launch trials for passengers to prove their fully-vaccinated status when returning from countries on the amber list, either in paper or digital format.
The identification process, which is set to come into place later this week, is a bid from the companies to prove that it’s possible to quickly verify the people arriving in the UK who are fully vaccinated. The scheme is similar to one already in place for outbound travel to several countries, with the ‘UK proving trial’ aiming to encourage the government to move forward with their proposal to remove quarantine for fully vaccinated (14 days after the second dose) passengers travelling from an amber list country.
The scheme, which is open to inbound passengers of all nationalities, aims to show how airports and airlines can check a passenger’s vaccine status away from the border, minimising pressure in UK immigration halls.
Eligible passengers travelling on select BA and Virgin flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to Heathrow will be contacted in the coming days and invited to be part of the trial. Those who take part will be able to arrive through a dedicated arrivals lane at the airport.
Those taking part in the trial will have to abide by current rules surrounding amber list travel during this period, including having to quarantine for ten days in the UK and taking two Covid tests on day eight and day eight, with BA customers able to access a discounted rate for mandatory arrival tests.
The trial comes in after Germany lifted its travel ban on the UK, with fully-vaccinated visitors able to enter the country without needing to quarantine, joining countries including France, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Malta. The US is allowing double-vaccinated residents to avoid self-isolation and the UK carriers are urging the UK government to introduce exemptions no later than July 19.
Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive and chairman, said: “We need to act quickly to protect jobs, re-build the UK economy and reunite loved ones. We are already helping our customers show proof of their vaccination status when travelling to a number of other countries outside the UK which require it, and we’re confident we can make this happen for entry to Britain too, very quickly.”
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, also said: “Our proof-of-concept trial on selected US and Caribbean routes demonstrates our readiness as an industry to rapidly operationalise the new policy, and work with government and authorities to ensure it is smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the transatlantic corridor, without which £23 million is lost each day from the UK economy.
“The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”
The trial will accept WHO-approved vaccines including Oxford/Astra Zeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer and Sinopharm. Vaccination credentials that will be accepted in the trial include the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level certification and EU Digital Covid Credential. BA will use the VeriFLY app to support the process while Virgin will use the new Fly Ready digital uploader tool. The options for customers to show their vaccine status is planned to expand as the proof-of-concept develops.