It seems British Airways, American Airlines and Oneworld are joining in the pre-flight testing game, with them launching an optional COVID-19 medical-based testing trial on selected flights from the United States to London Heathrow.
Like the programme offered by United Airlines, it’s an effort by the carriers and alliance to scientifically demonstrate how COVID-19 testing can reopen international travel and remove the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival.
The optional free tests will be offered as follows:
American AirlinesAA50 departing Dallas- Fort Worth Heathrow
British Airways flight BA114 departing New York John F. Kennedy Airport to London Heathrow
British Airways flight BA268 from Los Angeles to London Heathrow
The offer and testing will begin on 25th November. The test will be expanded to American Airlines flight AA106 from JFK to LHR, with a launch date to be communicated.
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 should reschedule or cancel their travel.
It will work along these lines:
An initial at-home test to be taken 72 hours before departure from the US – this is an RT-PCR test provided by LetsGetChecked. Customers will self-collect a nasal sample, under the supervision of medical professionals via a virtual visit.
A second test will take place upon arrival at LHR – This is a LAMP test, provided by Collinson, involves the collection of a nasal sample by a medical professional. A third test will be handed to the passenger at that point
A third test to be taken three days after arrival in the UK, to be completed three days after landing, via an at-home testing kit
The three-test approach aims to validate a customer’s negative status for COVID-19 throughout the travel journey and will provide insight into the most effective and practical testing interval.
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.
oneworld has formed a task force containing its member airline representatives and independent medical experts are overseeing the implementation of the trial. American Airlines, British Airways and oneworld will closely monitor customer participation.
The task force will share aggregated results with the US and UK Governments and other stakeholders to demonstrate the essential role that COVID-19 testing programmes can play in safely restarting travel.
According to the airlines, trade between the UK and US totals more than £200 billion (US$ 262 billion) a year, which airlines are critical to facilitating.
The airlines used to operate a combined network of 30 destinations from London, with up to 111 flights a week. As you can imagine, this has been greatly reduced due to the pandemic.
So opening up those routes is of great interest to the airlines and the alliance.
The tests will be using facilities at London Heathrow to conduct the trial with (as well as the implementation of it) to see if further trial routes can be opened up.
These trials will not impact NHS testing services or testing capacity.
Chairman and Chief Executive of American Airlines, Doug Parker, 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.”
Chief Executive of British Airways, 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.”
Chief Executive of oneworld Rob Gurney said:
“We believe that COVID-19 testing will play an important role in safely restarting international travel. A comprehensive testing programme will provide governments the confidence to reduce or waive quarantine requirements and safely reopen their economies to international visitors, while further assuring customers that their health and well-being are protected.”
American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER Taxiing into Terminal 3 – Image, Economy Class and Beyond
With airlines desperate to recapture traffic and passengers, they are trying to show that flying is “safe” and that is possible to remove as many as the risks as possible, by using a three-layer testing technique.
That is a very interesting method – and should provide some useful data on infection pre and post-travel.
And with governments loving data so much, hopefully, it will convince some to loosen their protocols – if it’s proven over a large dataset.
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