A transatlantic testing trial, involving oneworld, American Airlines and British Airways, has been announced.
The three-test initiative is optional for passengers on selected flights from the US to LHR in a combined effort to scientifically demonstrate how COVID-19 testing can reopen international travel and remove the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival.
The free tests will initially be offered to eligible customers booked on certain flights between Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and London Heathrow, from November 25.
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 have to reschedule or cancel their travel.
The first test, to be taken 72 hours before departure from the US, is a convenient at-home RT-PCR test. Customers will self-collect a nasal sample, under the supervision of medical professionals via a virtual visit.
On landing at LHR, participating passengers will proceed to their second test at the airport. The LAMP test, provided by Collinson, involves the collection of a nasal sample by a medical professional. After the test is completed, a test kit for the third test will be provided to the customer. The test kit offers an at-home testing option, through the self-collection of a saliva sample which is taken three days after arrival in the UK.
The three-test approach aims to validate a customer's negative status 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.
A 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.
Based on current UK policy, 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 UK National Health Service testing capacity.
British Airways and American Airlines have worked with Heathrow on implementation of the trial into Terminal 5 and, as a result, Heathrow is now exploring whether trials can be introduced on more routes between the airport and the US.
Ce of oneworld, Rob Gurney, said in a press release: "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."