London’s Heathrow airport launched a new service Tuesday to rapidly test for Covid-19 before passengers depart on their flights. Simultaneously, the U.K. government has announced plans to slash quarantine on international arrivals from 14 days to one week.
It is hoped that both schemes will encourage passengers back in the air.
The UK’s first rapid pre-flight Covid-19 testing facility will cost £80 ($104) with results taking around an hour to complete–Oxford LAMP tests are being used. LAMP tests, unlike others, do not need to go to a laboratory to be processed.
Collinson and logistics firm Swissport described the pre-departure testing regime as the “crucial next step toward keeping the travel industry moving while limiting the spread of the virus”, as reported in The Telegraph.
The testing will be located at terminals 2 and 5 for passengers traveling to destinations that require pre-departure testing, notably Hong Kong and Italy, as reported by CNN. The trial will take place for 4 weeks, used by airlines British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific, and will record passenger and airline take up.
Skyscanner polled 3,525 U.K. travelers as to their thoughts on Heathrow’s new rapid testing facility and discovered that 69% of them would be prepared to pay for a test in order to be able to travel and avoid quarantine upon arrival.
An additional study by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found that 86% of Britons say they are willing to be tested to facilitate travel, quoted in The Telegraph.
The U.K. transport secretary, speaking at an aviation conference Airlines 2050 on Monday 19 October, announced that a new testing system would be introduced by December 1 to allow quarantine to be slashed from 14 to 7 days for travelers arriving back in the country.
It was coined a “domestic ‘test and release’ approach” where travelers returning from overseas would quarantine for 7 days and then be allowed to take a Covid-19 test, available through the private sector. If the result was negative, international travelers would be allowed to end their period of self-isolation. 78% of U.K. travelers polled by Skyscanner said that this would make them more likely to travel abroad to certain countries.
Hugh Aitken, VP of Skyscanner stated that the “a combination of reduced quarantine length and more airport testing measures could mean we see more travellers feeling confident to travel to their favourite places again without being heavily impacted on their return.”