"Expanding our testing efforts with pilot programs like this one not only helps guarantee passengers* onboard test negative for COVID-19, it also adds another element to our layered approach to safety and demonstrates a way to work within quarantines to key worldwide destinations", he added.
American Airlines, British Airways and oneworld plan to offer voluntary COVID-19 testing on flights between the U.S. and London Heathrow (LHR) as they push to get worldwide quarantine measures dropped. All customers are still subject to current United Kingdom entry requirements, including the 14-day quarantine rule. In September, the CDC estimated that 11,000 people were exposed to Covid-19 during flights, a number which has likely increased since.
A United Airlines official said, "Pre-departure testing is really a great way to start to open up worldwide travel again".
The pre-departure test will be conducted at home by travelers, who will self-collect a nasal sample under the supervision of medical professionals by videoconference, BA said.
Airlines are calling on the United Kingdom government to scrap the 14-day quarantine requirement, which they say is killing the travel industry and slowing economic growth.
After landing at Heathrow, participating customers will proceed to their second test at the airport. The newer Loop-medicated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test, provided by Collinson, involves the collection of a nasal sample by a medical professional and returns results in less time than an RT-PCR test.
"The fact that we're able to identify a passenger yesterday who did test positive and prevent that passenger from traveling shows why these program are important", a spokesman for United told FBT in an interview.
"These flights are a good proof-of-concept for governments around the world that are considering making testing part of the travel experience", said Toby Enqvist, the airline's chief customer officer. "We need the United Kingdom government to introduce a system that allows travelers to take reliable, affordable tests before departure, so they are confident that fellow passengers are Covid-free".