December 1, 2023

Heathrow trial ‘proves’ travel rules can be relaxed

A trial by Heathrow, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic has “proved” that the UK Government can safely expand its amber list policy and remove self-isolation for fully-vaccinated US and EU citizens arriving into the UK.

Findings of the trial, released days before the next traffic light review on July 31, showed that airlines and airports can “very effectively” check recognised vaccination statuses for different nationalities – in both paper and digital format – at the point of departure and away from the UK Border, ensuring no further pressure in immigration halls.

As part of the 10-day trial, fully-vaccinated travellers on selected flights from Los Angeles, New York, Montego Bay and Athens agreed to share their vaccination status at their departure airport.

Verification checks ensured 99% of credentials were authentic, with the remaining 1% successfully denied where documentation requirements were not met.

Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO and Chairman, said: “We are confident that this proving trial provides the evidence the Government needs to allow fully vaccinated customers from low-risk countries to enter the UK, knowing it’s possible to do so smoothly and safely.

“The UK needs to safely re-open its borders as soon as possible to ensure loved ones can reunite, business can thrive and Global Britain is able to take advantage of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme.”

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “The UK is already falling behind the US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.

“We urge the UK Government to move the US to the UK’s ‘green list’ and for the exemption from self-isolation to be extended to all fully vaccinated passengers with WHO-recognised vaccines, beginning with the US and EU. Our proof-of-concept trial demonstrates our readiness as an industry to rapidly operationalise an expanded amber policy for fully vaccinated travellers, and work with Government and authorities to ensure it is smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the Transatlantic corridor.”

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow added: “The vaccine has been a miracle of science, and these trials have shown that we can allow fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and US to visit the UK without quarantine. There is now no reason to delay with rolling out the solution from July 31.”

Passengers in the trial presented digital or paper-based vaccine credentials for validation.

Digitally pre-verified vaccination statuses were authenticated in minutes, helping to speed up the airport check-in process, alongside existing checks for a completed Passenger Locator Form and valid pre-departure tests.