Published on Monday, October 5, 2020

Virgin Atlantic claims 'UK first' with pre-flight tests at Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic is ramping up the pressure on UK and US governments with the trial of Covid-19 pre-flight testing at Heathrow for cabin crew and pilots - claiming to be the first UK airline to do so.

Introduced on September 30 on flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong, the airline plans to extend the trial to Barbados and select services later this month, before rolling it out across its fleet to test every operating crew at least once a month.

Swabs will be taken on site, with results processed and delivered via an app within 30 minutes, without the requirement of a lab.

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer of Virgin Atlantic, said it would continue to be in discussions with multiple providers and testing technologies, but would not compete with the NHS for vital resources.

"This trial is a first step in our phased plan to introduce regular testing for all of our teams in the air and on the ground, in order to instil confidence in flying. However, we continue to call for the swift introduction of a wider coordinated passenger testing regime. We need urgent action from UK and US governments to introduce pre-departure testing, to remove the need for quarantine and to minimise travel restrictions, while protecting public health and half a million UK jobs associated with the sector.'¯

"As long as the UK's 14-day quarantine is in place, demand for travel will not return and the UK's economic recovery, which relies on free flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off." 

The airline has also introduced complimentary Covid-19 global insurance cover with Allianz Assistance for all bookings. The cover applies to all existing and new bookings travelling from August 24 2020 up until March 31 2021. The policy offers comprehensive cover in the event that a Virgin Atlantic customer or travel companion becomes ill with COVID-19 while on a trip.

By Louise Longman, Contributing Editor (UK)

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