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British Airways launches coronavirus test trial

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The airline is calling for the UK’s quarantine policy to be scrapped in favour of airport testing.

British Airways has teamed up with American Airlines and Oneworld to launch a transatlantic Covid-19 testing trial on selected flights from the US to London Heathrow.

The trial aims to scientifically demonstrate how Covid-19 testing could reopen international travel and remove the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival in the UK.

The free tests will initially be offered to eligible customers booked on selected flights beginning on 25 November.

Eligible customers booked on flights that are part of the trial will be contacted by American Airlines and British Airways with instructions on how to volunteer.

Each customer participating in the trial will take three tests in conjunction with the journey. If a customer tests positive, they will be asked to reschedule or cancel their trip.

Customers will take an at-home test before leaving the US, a second test when landing at Heathrow, and another at-home test three days later.

The three-test approach aims to validate a customer’s negative status for Covid-19 throughout the travel journey.

The third test is intended to further confirm the results of the first two tests, to demonstrate that one or two tests will be sufficient to allow travel to safely restart.

A task force, comprising of airline representatives and  independent medical experts, will oversee the trial and share aggregated results with the US and UK governments.

Based on current UK government policies, international travellers arriving in the UK from the US are required to self-isolate for 14 days even if they have tested negative for Covid-19.

The tests being used as part of the trial will not impact the UK NHS testing capacity.

Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive of American Airlines, said: “American has already successfully introduced a pre-flight Covid-19 testing programme for customers travelling from the US to international destinations across the Caribbean and Latin America. We have received tremendous feedback from our customers in response to testing, as it provides peace of mind for safe and enjoyable travel.

“The UK is a critically important business and leisure destination that our customers want to visit. We believe the results provided by this trial will be vital for reopening transatlantic travel safely.”

Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, 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.”