By Bev Fearis, published 7/10/20
Virgin Atlantic has become the first UK airline to introduce Covid-19 pre-flight testing at its Heathrow base for cabin crew and pilots.
Initially on flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong, Virgin plans to extend the trial to select services later this month before a wider roll out to test every operating crew at least once per month.
The test process does not require a lab. After a swab is taken on site, results are processed and delivered on an app within 30 minutes.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer, said: “As testing technology and Covid-19 requirements around the world develop, we want to utilise technology that is relevant, accurate and available to keep our teams and customers healthy and safe.
“While the Covid-19 testing landscape evolves, we continue to be in discussions with multiple providers offering different technologies to guarantee the best solution possible, while absolutely ensuring that we do not compete with the NHS for vital resources.
“This trial is a first step in our phased plan to introduce regular testing for all of our teams in the air and on the ground, in order to instil confidence in flying.
“However, we continue to call for the swift introduction of a wider coordinated passenger testing regime. We need urgent action from the UK and US governments to introduce pre-departure testing, to remove the need for quarantine and to minimise travel restrictions, while protecting public health and half a million UK jobs associated with the sector.
“As long as the UK’s 14-day quarantine is in place, demand for travel will not return and the UK’s economic recovery, which relies on free flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off.”
The Government announced late on Wednesday that it is setting up a new taskforce to find an alternative to the 14-day quarantine. Travellers would have to pay for their own tests so they don’t impact NHS capacity.
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA), said: “Today’s announcement of a task force charged with looking at a testing model for international travel is long overdue. The BTA has been calling for months for airport testing to be introduced.
“Testing trials in other markets have demonstrated high levels of accuracy and effectiveness. The British travel industry will only survive if the task force acts swiftly. It must take concrete action to introduce testing in weeks, not months.
“As the representative body for business travel, we urge the Global Travel Taskforce to consult with us, and for testing to then be safely introduced without further delay.”