Two new Covid-19 testing programs could be key to unlocking travel between the US and Europe.
Selected passengers flying on American Airlines, British Airways and United Airlines flights can participate in testing programs Assessment of whether preflight Covid-19 tests can be used to relax the travel restrictions imposed by both countries.
However, the two programs are very different. Here’s What You Should Know About Each One.
On November 17, American Airlines and British Airways announced the start of an optional Covid-19 test trial on flights from the United States to London.
The testing program begins on November 25 with flights to Heathrow Airport departing from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (flight AA50), John F. Kennedy International Airport (BA114) and Los Angeles International Airport (BA268). A second JFK flight (AA106) will be added to the program at a later date, according to a press release from American Airlines.
Passengers who volunteer for the program will undergo three free Covid-19 tests as follows:
- Test 1: A self-administered RT-PCR test (nose test) carried out at home 72 hours before departure via a virtual consultation with a doctor
- Test 2: A LAMPEN (nose test) Taken on landing at Heathrow Airport
- Test 3: A self-administered saliva test taken at home three days after arriving in the UK.
The three-test approach is specific to the study, said David Evans, joint CEO of Collinson, a global travel company that opened two Covid-19 testing facilities at Heathrow for outbound travelers in mid-October.
The goal “is to collect data to demonstrate the effectiveness of the different tests that are used at different stages,” he said.
The results of the American Airlines and British Airways pilot program are being shared with the US and UK governments in hopes of easing travel restrictions between the two countries.
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“RT-PCR tests are the ‘gold standard’ … because they are even more sensitive than LAMP tests, but also take anywhere from six to 24 hours,” said Evans. “RT-LAMP tests – both of which are very effective and can be processed in about 60 minutes – are ideal for an airport environment because they can be performed on site.”
Even if all tests are negative, UK passengers will need to self-isolate.
The test ends after 500 customers have been tested as part of the three-test approach, said Janine Brown, communications manager at American Airlines.
“The study is being conducted with the aim of showing that testing can play a role in reducing the need for quarantine,” Brown told CNBC’s Global Traveler. “The UK government recently announced that it is evaluating testing as a means of reducing self-isolation times.”
Heathrow Airport is to investigate preflight test attempts on additional routes from the United States.
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According to Evans, the UK alone is losing £ 32 million ($ 42.3 million) a day as there is no flight connection to the US.
Before the global pandemic, American Airlines and British Airways flew up to 111 flights a week between New York and London. Now the airlines are offering 14 weekly flights between the two cities.
Doug Parker, chairman and executive director of American Airlines, said in a company Press release that the airline has already successfully introduced Covid-19 tests for customers traveling from the United States to the Caribbean and Latin America. American Airlines is currently testing passengers traveling to Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Belize, and Hawaii.
“The UK is an extremely important business and leisure destination that our customers want to visit,” said Parker. “We believe the results of this study are critical to the safe reopening of transatlantic travel.”
On November 16, United Airlines launched a month-long pre-flight trial on flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to Heathrow Airport (UA14).
It’s free to try, but the similarities between the two programs end there.
Participation in the United program is mandatory. All passengers over 2 years of age, including flight crew members, are required to take a quick Covid-19 test before boarding. Passengers who do not wish to participate will be rebooked onto another flight at no additional cost.
A health care worker prepares an Abbott ID Now fast test machine during a United Airlines pilot at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday, November 16, 2020.
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Only one test is required here – a quick Abbott ID Now test. The White House relied on Abbott’s ID Now test to screen visitors prior to an outbreak in September that saw President Donald Trump diagnosed with Covid-19 on October 2.
The test accurately diagnoses Covid-19 cases with symptoms, but it is known to be missed up to a third of asymptomatic infections. United Airlines did not respond to CNBC’s request for information on the effectiveness rates of this test.
The tests are carried out at the airport via an appointment that The airline advises Passengers book at least three hours before departure. The results are available approximately 30 minutes later.
Passengers who test positive will not be able to board the flight. According to the airline’s terms, these are passengers will either be refunded or rebooked for another flight departing at least 10 days later. Those who test positive must have two consecutive negative Covid-19 results in order to board a rebooked flight.
additional requirements state: “You acknowledge that the accuracy of the laboratory test results is not guaranteed and you may receive a false positive or a false negative result. You agree that United is not responsible for any inaccurate test results and the consequences thereof.”
However, the benefits of testing can outweigh the risks. According to a press release published by United Airlines on Monday, the airline reports a “positive impact on the demand for travel” and a significant increase in revenue if test options are available.
Currently, most European Union residents are banned from entering the United States due to a travel ban issued in March last year. Americans can travel to the UK if they are quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.