Heathrow, BA and Virgin trialling online document verification for select flights returning to the UK
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Long lines in arrivals halls when returning to the United Kingdom could be a thing of the past, as London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) is set to begin trialling document uploading and verification before departure.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are working together with Heathrow Airport to allow fully vaccinated volunteer travellers returning to the United Kingdom on select flights to upload and verify their vaccination status, negative rapid test result and Passenger Locator Form before their flight, rather than having these documents checked manually at the airport.
For passengers who are not checking baggage, this would mean they could check-in online, proceed directly to security and board their flight.
On arrival in the U.K., travellers participating in this trial could then use a dedicated priority arrivals lane at Heathrow Airport, which should be a much quicker arrivals experience. Depending on how many passengers are arriving at the time and Border Force staffing numbers, these passengers may use eGates or proceed to a staffed passport check, just as other passengers do right now.
Flights included in the trial include select British Airways flights from New York (JFK) and Athens (ATH) to Heathrow, and Virgin Atlantic flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ) to Heathrow. Eligible passengers will receive a pre-departure invitation from British Airways or Virgin Atlantic inviting them to participate in this trial.
British Airways already has an effective and efficient system for uploading travel documents including vaccination certificates, test results and passenger locator forms for outbound passengers to several countries departing Heathrow Airport through its VeriFLY partnership, as TPG recently discovered first-hand. The ability to submit and verify any required documentation in advance online meant the airport process was quick, easy and stress-free and remarkably similar to pre-pandemic times.
The current issue is that this upload process has only been available for flights departing Heathrow, not arriving. This means that passengers flying into Heathrow must allow plenty of time for manual document verification and check-in before boarding their flight.
This trial is a step towards making that inbound experience just as seamless as the outbound experience.
The trial is being introduced in anticipation of a change in traffic light system rules from 19 July, where fully-jabbed British travellers are believed to no longer need to self-isolate on their return to the U.K. from amber countries. This would essentially turn amber countries green for those who are fully vaccinated, opening up dozens of new summer holiday options.
Featured image by Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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