Miami – American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), and oneworld® have announced the launch of an optional COVID-19 testing trial on selected flights from the United States to London Heathrow (LHR). The combined effort hopes to scientifically demonstrate how COVID-19 testing can reopen international travel and remove the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival.

American Airlines, BA, and oneworld will offer the tests to eligible customers booked on AA flight AA550 departing Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to LHR, BA flight BA114 flying from JFK to LHR, and BA flight BA268 from Los Angeles (LAX) to LHR. The tests will be free and launch on November 25. The project will expand to include American Airlines flight AA106 from JFK to LHR.

The launch date will be communicated at a later time. The airlines will contact eligible passengers with information on how to volunteer. Each passenger will take three tests, one before and two after the journey.

American Airlines Boeing 757 oneworld livery, Photo: American Airlines

How the Tests Will Work

Passengers take the first test at home within 72 hours of departure. It is a RT-PCR test provided by LetsGetChecked. Customers will self-collect a nasal sample under the virtual guidance of a medical professional.

After arrival at LHR, customers will take a second test at the airport. This will be a LAMP test, provided by Collinson where a medical professional will collect a nasal sample. After that test is complete, the customer will receive a take-way package containing the third test. This will be a saliva sample test taken three days after arrival in the UK.

A joint press release says, “the three-test approach aims to validate a customer’s negative status for COVID-19 throughout the journey. It will provide insight into the most effective and practical testing interval. We intend the third test to further confirm the results of the first two tests. It should demonstrate that one or two tests will be sufficient to allow travel to safely restart.”

A task force comprising representatives from oneworld airlines, as well as independent medical professionals, is overseeing the project. The task force will share aggregated results with the US and UK governments and other stakeholders to demonstrate the essential role that COVID-19 testing programs can play in safely restarting travel.

London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. Photo: Pascall Watson.

Comments from CEOs

Chairman and CEO of American Airlines, Doug Parker, said, “American has already successfully introduced a pre-flight COVID-19 testing program for customers traveling from the US to international destinations across the Caribbean and Latin America. We have received tremendous feedback in response to testing, as it provides peace of mind for safe and enjoyable travel. We believe the results provided by this trial will be vital for reopening transatlantic travel safely.”

Chief Executive of British Airways, Sean Doyle, said, “We know people want to travel but our skies remain all but closed. Major economies like Germany are adopting testing to replace quarantine and leaving the UK behind. We need the UK Government to introduce a system that allows travelers to take reliable, affordable tests before departure. They need to be confident that fellow passengers are COVID-free. For people arriving from countries with high infection rates, a further test on arrival should then release them from quarantine.”

Chief Executive of oneworld Rob Gurney said, “COVID-19 testing will play an important role in safely restarting international travel. A comprehensive testing program will provide governments the confidence to reduce or waive quarantine requirements and safely reopen their economies to international visitors. A program will also further assure customers that their health and well-being are protected.”

Featured image: BA at London Heathrow Airport