British Airways to issue free covid tests on USA flights in new Heathrow trial

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British Airways is trialling covid tests on select flights from the USA to the UK. The flag carrier, along with American Airlines and airline alliance Oneworld, has launched an optional COVID-19 medical-based testing trial on selected transatlantic flights to London Heathrow. The triumvirate hope to scientifically demonstrate how coronavirus testing can reopen international travel and remove the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival.

The tests, which are free to travellers, will initially be offered to eligible customers booked on the following flights, beginning 25 November:

– American Airlines flight AA50 departing Dallas/ Fort Worth (DFW) to LHR

– British Airways flight BA114 departing New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) to LHR

– British Airways flight BA268 from Los Angeles (LAX) to LHR

The test will also be expanded to American Airlines flight AA106 from JFK to LHR, with a launch date to be communicated.

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

They will be tested for coronavirus a total of three times throughout the process.

The first test – an at-home RT-PCR test – is to be taken 72 hours before departure from the US.

Customers will self-collect a nasal sample, under the supervision of medical professionals via a virtual visit.

The second test – a LAMP test – will be taken at Heathrow Airport and involves the collection of a nasal sample by a medical professional.

The third is a test kit given to the passenger. The test kit offers an at-home testing option and requires the participant to self-collect a saliva sample three days after arrival into the UK.

If a customer tests positive, they should reschedule or cancel their travel.

“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,” said BA in a statement.

“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 Oneworld member airline representatives and independent medical experts are overseeing the implementation of the trial, with customer participation closely monitored by the airlines.

British Airways and American Airlines have worked with Heathrow on implementation of the trial in to Terminal 5.

The London hub is now exploring whether trials can be introduced on more routes between the airport and the US.

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.”

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