Starting Nov. 25, American Airlines and British Airways, in coordination with the Oneworld alliance, are launching COVID-19 testing trial on selected flights from three US gateways to London Heathrow. The coordinated effort aims to validate the value of COVID-19 testing in reopening international travel and mitigating the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival.
Customers who choose to participate in the trial will be contacted by the carriers with instructions on how to volunteer. The trial involves taking three tests in conjunction with the journey:
• An initial in-home test is taken 72 hours before departure from the US
• A second test will be administered on arrival at LHR
• A third test is to be taken three days after arrival in the UK
The free tests will initially be offered to passengers booked on American Airlines Flight AA50 from Dallas Fort Worth to LHR, on British Airways Flight BA114 from JFK to LHR; and British Airways Flight BA268 departing LAX to LHR. Another flight, American AA106 from JFK to LHR, will be added at a later date.
This week, United Airlines launched a four-week trial program testing all passengers on three-times-weekly flights from Newark to London Heathrow. That program however is different in that the United trial involves only pre-flight testing, while the American-British Airways initiative is using a three-test protocol.
The purpose of the three-test regime, according to a Oneworld announcement, is to confirm a customer’s negative status for COVID-19 throughout the travel journey and will provide insight into the most effective testing approach.
A task force made up of Oneworld member airline representatives and independent medical experts are overseeing the implementation of the trial. The task force will share aggregated results with the US and UK governments and other stakeholders.
In an effort to contain the virus, UK authorities requires all arrivals into the country to undergo a 14-day quarantine. However a government taskforce is currently looking at ways to implement a COVID-19 testing system for international arrivals to limit the quarantine period.
“We believe that COVID-19 testing will play an important role in safely restarting international travel,” said Oneworld CEO Rob Gurney. “A comprehensive testing program 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.”