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Airlines call for probe into Covid test charges

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the costs of coronavirus tests for people in the UK wanting to go on holiday.

The call comes after the government set out plans for international travel to re-start, potentially next month.

The proposals include making it mandatory for travellers to pay up to £120 for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on their return to the UK. People who’ve visited ‘amber’ countries would need to pay for two PCR tests, resulting in a total cost of £240.

However, the travel industry is calling for travellers returning from low-risk ‘green’ countries to be allowed to take cheaper lateral flow tests.

Willie Walsh, IATA director general, said: “The UK Government’s Global Travel Taskforce report marks an important step towards regaining the social and economic benefits of the freedom to travel from 17 May.

“The biggest concern is the sole reliance on PCR testing. This is far from the ‘affordable and accessible’ promise that the government has made. PCR testing is expensive, inconvenient and, in short supply in some destinations. Studies show that the best rapid tests could deliver similar levels of accuracy and put the cost of travel within the reach of many more people. And it has the potential to replace the need for quarantine for ‘amber’ countries.”

IATA is calling on the government to exempt all coronavirus tests from VAT, no matter the provider. It says that differing VAT standards applied to private and state provided testing confuses both providers and travellers, adding that the government should not be taking a 20% premium on what has become an essential service.

IATA is calling for the CMA to launch an immediate investigation into coronavirus testing charges.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Travellers face eye-watering costs for Covid tests which will price many people out of seeing loved ones or taking a holiday when international travel resumes, so it’s important the government quickly considers steps it can take to reduce costs while ensuring safety.

“Which? has submitted evidence to the Global Travel Taskforce on the high cost of tests in the UK, and solutions other countries have used to bring these costs down.

“The current government guidance also leaves too many questions unanswered about important aspects of foreign travel – so we would advise consumers to hold off on booking a holiday until the details become clearer.”