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December 1, 2020

Heathrow Airport and carriers launch pre-departure Covid-19 testing trial

The UK's Heathrow Airport has announced its collaboration with four transatlantic carriers for pre-departure Covid testing study.

The UK’s Heathrow Airport has announced its collaboration with four transatlantic carriers for pre-departure Covid testing study.

In an attempt to resume international aviation routes, the industry-funded study commissioned by the airport will use real-world data from American Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic to demonstrate the effectiveness of pre-departure testing for travellers.

The concluding report will be shared with governments on both sides of the Atlantic.

The study will help in providing a better understanding of how pre-departure testing could safely eliminate the need for self-isolation on arrival.

Heathrow will have access to anonymised testing data created by each of the separate pre-departure trials being carried out by participating airlines.

Given the number and scale of the carriers involved in the trial, it is considered to be the biggest pre-departures testing study in the country, claimed the airport.

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Oxera and Edge Health will not only author the study but will also provide specialist oversight.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “These trials will build on the government’s initial testing strategy, setting a standard for a safer and more comprehensive approach to passenger testing, that we hope will accelerate the return to travel as we once knew it.

“With Brexit imminent, we need to urgently find the most effective way to restore the UK’s trading network and facilitate safe global travel, keeping Britain competitive as it leaves the EU.”

The combined trials will take place on select transatlantic routes and will be free of cost for passengers.

The study is expected to assess the effectiveness of PCR tests, LAMP and lateral flow antigen devices.

Some of the trials will use Collinson and Swissport’s testing centres in Heathrow’s Terminal 2 and Terminal 5, which were launched earlier this year.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said: “After the welcome news last week that the government is reducing quarantine for travellers to five days, British Airways is pleased to be working closely with the team at Heathrow on trials between the US and London, which will seek to demonstrate that a robust pre-departure testing regime will help to fully reopen the skies and eliminate the need for quarantine.

“We stand with our colleagues at Heathrow and other UK airlines to ensure that together we do all we can to get Britain and the economy moving again.”

United Airlines senior vice-president and chief customer officer Toby Enqvist added: “We welcome this collaboration with Heathrow Airport Limited that demonstrates the value of pre-departure testing and the role it plays in opening international travel.

“United has overhauled our cleaning procedures to help ensure an even safer travel experience and testing continues to be a key component of our multi-layered approach to ensuring our customers’ wellbeing.”

This study comes after the UK Government launched a new strategy for testing international arrivals, which will reduce their mandatory self-isolation period by at least a week.

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