- Joe Breitfeller
American Airlines, British Airways and oneworld Trial Transatlantic COVID-19 Testing Program
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
The partners have launched an optional COVID-19 medical-based testing program on select flights between the U.S. and London-Heathrow to scientifically demonstrate its efficacy in eliminating mandatory quarantines.
On Tuesday (November 17, 2020), American Airlines, British Airways and the oneworld global alliance announced the launch of a transatlantic COVID-19 testing trial. The optional testing program starts on November 25, 2020 and will be available on select flights between the U.S. and London-Heathrow and part of an effort to scientifically prove how testing can eliminate the need for mandatory quarantines. Free tests will initially be available to eligible American Airlines’ guests booked on Flight AA50 between Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) and London-Heathrow (LHR), guests flying British Airways Flight BA114 from New York (JFK) to LHR as well as customers booked on British Airways Flight BA268 from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR). American Airlines plans on expanding the program to Flight AA106 between JFK and LHR soon.
Eligible guests booked on the trial flights will be contacted by American Airlines and British Airways with instructions on how to volunteer for the trial program. Every participating customer will take a total of three tests as part of their journey and those who test positive should reschedule or cancel their flights. First, a customer must take a test 72 hours prior to departure from the U.S. utilizing a convenient at-home RT-PCR test supervised online by LetsGetChecked. Upon landing at LHR, customers will undergo the LAMP test in collaboration with Collinson, which involves the collection of a nasal swab by a medical professional. Finally, participants will receive a third at-home test kit which must be taken through a self-collected saliva sample three days after arrival in the UK.
The purpose of three tests is to validate the customers negative COVID-19 status throughout the journey. A task force comprised of oneworld member airline representatives in medical experts will share the aggregated information with the U.S. and UK Governments and other stakeholders to demonstrate the essential role testing can have in safely reopening international air travel. Current UK Government regulations require U.S. travelers arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19. Commenting on the testing trial, American Airlines’ Chairman and Chief Executive, Doug Parker, said,
“American has already successfully introduced a pre-flight COVID-19 testing program for customers travelling from the U.S. to international destinations across the Caribbean and Latin America. We have received tremendous feedback from our customers in response to testing, as it provides peace of mind for safe and enjoyable travel. The UK is a critically important business and leisure destination that our customers want to visit. We believe the results provided by this trial will be vital for reopening transatlantic travel safely.”
Also commenting on the testing trial collaborations, British Airways’ Chief Executive, Sean Doyle, added,
“We know people want to travel but our skies remain all but closed and the UK is being left behind. Major economies like Germany are adopting testing to replace quarantine. We need the UK Government to introduce a system that allows travelers to take reliable, affordable tests before departure, so they are 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. We are confident this approach would open routes, stimulate economies and get people traveling with confidence. The UK’s economic recovery depends on the swift reopening of its skies.”
Oneworld’s Chief Executive, Rob Gurney, further stated,
“We believe that 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, while further assuring customers that their health and well-being are protected.”
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has suggested that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on an aircraft is extremely low with only 44 COVID-19 cases, out of 1.2 billion travelers, linked to flights since the beginning of the year. Additionally, a study conducted by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that a robust multi-layered strategy can effectively reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel to levels lower than common activities such as shopping. The universal wearing of facemasks has been found to be the most essential part of the protocols to reduce disease transmission.
Source(s): American Airlines, British Airways, oneworld