LONDON – London Heathrow Airport (LHR) has announced it will offer rapid COVID-19 testing to passengers using the airport, with results provided within one hour.

Testing will take place in a purpose-built facility in the airport ran by Collinson and Swissport, with passengers able to purchase a test for £80. Commenting on this was John Holland-Kaye, LHR’s CEO who expressed why this was an important move by the airport.

“Many other countries are already using testing to keep their borders safe while restarting trade and travel. These facilities will make it easier for passengers going to those countries to get a test and have the potential to provide a service for arriving passengers.”

Photo: London Heathrow Airport

Airlines Primed and Ready

It is understood that airlines such as British Airways (BA), Virgin Atlantic (VS) and Cathay Pacific (CX) will be among the first to offer this facility in Terminals 2 and 5.

London Heathrow has been very vocal on this issue in particular, especially as numbers at the airport dropped by 82% and the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps setting a December 1 target to have faster privately manufactured COVID tests in place.

Such a strategy pursued by Shapps at the moment indicates a new “test and release” system that could bring down the 14-day quarantine rule down to just seven days. At the Airlines 2050: Beyond the Crisis event, Shapps went into more detail about such testing in place, stating it would not strain public assets.

“My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed on a regime based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger after a period of self-isolation. Public Health England will set the quality for the test itself and then it will be up to the private sector to provide a test up to that quality.”

Photo: London Heathrow Airport

Still Not Enough?

Those who operate out of LHR at the moment argue however that the moves made by Shapps and even the airport may not be enough to kickstart the industry again. Even new British Airways (BA) CEO Sean Doyle stated that cutting the quarantine period in half still would not make a difference.

“There is a risk that as an industry we will not see beyond this crisis if we do not first address the issue of how we get people flying again. Even if the quarantine period is reduced to seven days, people won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind.”

On top of this, there is also the element of blanket bans and restrictions imposed by countries such as the United States, which is affecting a lot of LHR’s business.

Back in September, OAG announced that the transatlantic market may reduce by US$7bn due to the effects of COVID-19, with Airlines UK stating that the country is losing around £32m per day on that market.

Photo: London Heathrow Airport

Onwards to December?

Whilst the development from LHR is an important and positive step to rejuvenate confidence in the industry, there is still a lot of work left to be done, particularly by the UK government. All eyes will now be on Grant Shapps to see what results he can provide on December 1, and whether it will be enough to keep the sector on its feet or not.

The Summer season for airlines has been considered negative, with the likes of VS filing for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in the US as well as British Airways continuing to cut jobs. With the Winter seasons being traditionally difficult to generate revenues, it will be a question of whether some of the biggest players in the industry will make it through this difficult period or not.

Photo: London Heathrow Airport

Featured Image: The London Heathrow Airport Air Traffic Control Tower. Photo Credit: London Heathrow Airport.