Virgin Atlantic to trial pre-departure rapid COVID-19 testing for Barbados flights

Nov 27, 2020

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Virgin Atlantic is jumping on the trend of offering pre-departure COVID-19 tests to passengers. The airline announced on Friday that it’s going to launch the testing trial on select flights from London Heathrow to Barbados.

On select flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and Barbados (BGI) as of 9 December, passengers will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test before being allowed to board the aircraft. The rapid, point of care, lateral flow antigen test will be free of charge to passengers and be administered in Terminal 2’s pre-departure testing facility.

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The six-week trial, which is being launched in partnership with Collinson, London Heathrow and the Barbados Ministry of Tourism & Integral Transport, will be administered to passengers up to one hour and 45 minutes before departure. Passengers will receive their digital and printed test result within 30 minutes. Once a passenger has received their negative result, they will be able to proceed through security and board the plane.

Passengers travelling onwards to Antigua and Grenada from Barbados on the eligible flights will also have to undergo the testing.

Unfortunately, even with the pre-departure rapid test, passengers will still have to abide by local regulations on arrival in Barbados. At this time, the U.K. is still deemed high-risk, meaning that passengers will also need to have a negative PCR test result with them, taken within 72 hours of arrival. Additionally, you will have to quarantine for two to three days when you arrive in Barbados. After that period, you will then have to take another PCR test. If that result comes back negative, you’ll be permitted to travel freely around the island.

Related: Everything you need to know about COVID-19 testing for travel

Meanwhile, Barbados is featured on England’s travel corridor list, meaning travellers won’t have to quarantine on their return to England.

“The new U.K. Test to Release scheme is a vital first step in reopening the skies, but we must now move rapidly towards a single test pre-departure regime in order to ensure the survival of U.K. aviation and protect 500,000 jobs reliant on the sector,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said in a statement.

Related: It’s official: You’ll now be able to test out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine

The government has said that it will review its Test to Release scheme over time. Virgin Atlantic is hoping to show that a testing scheme prior to departure can help reduce the spread and eventually replace the Test to Release scheme on arrival to England.

If a passenger doesn’t want to partake in the trial, Virgin Atlantic said they will have a choice to rebook to another Virgin flight free of charge. If a passenger tests positive, they will also be able to rebook free of charge or cancel their trip.

“Our Heathrow-Barbados testing trial… will gather vital data on the efficacy of a pre-departure testing regime to safely replace quarantine,” Weiss said. “We hope that testing will also lead the way for U.S. borders to open to U.K. travellers.”

This week, sources revealed to Reuters that the White House is considering ending its ban on Europeans entering the U.S., however, nothing has been made official. Since March, the U.S. has barred non-U.S. citizens from entering the country if they’ve been in Europe, China, Iran or Brazil within the past 14 days.

The move by Virgin to implement pre-departure rapid testing sees it join a growing list of airlines that are doing the same to show that using testing at the airport in conjunction with existing testing protocols can reduce the spread of the virus. United Airlines, American Airlines in partnership with British Airways and Delta Air Lines have all introduced similar plans for travellers to take pre-departure rapid tests.

Related: First United flight with free COVID testing for passengers lands at Heathrow

Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic became the first U.K. airline to commit to testing its crew for COVID-19 at least once a month.

Featured photo courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

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