Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye is encouraging the Government to move to testing on departure, and potentially arrival, as a way of reducing quarantine times and rebooting passenger air travel.
He is joined by virtually every other aviation executive – last week, Lufthansa CEO said in an interview that testing was the only way forward.
In an interview with Travel Weekly, John Holland-Kaye said that Boris Johnson was keen to trial airport testing later this month: “We’ve heard from the prime minister that he hopes to go to a trial in the second half of October.”
That doesn’t mean it will happen, of course. Boris Johnson has said a lot of optimistic things in recent months that haven’t come to pass …..
Heathrow is saying that it wants to charge users £150 per test once it gets the green light. This puts it roughly in line with other private testing providers CityDoc and Nomad Travel (recommended by British Airways) which are charging between £90 and £200 for testing.
It is significantly more expensive than the €5 to €7 Euro rapid antigen tests Lufthansa was touting last week and has already rolled out to its premium passengers. This test is slightly less accurate with a false negative rate of around 3.5% but it is far faster and cheaper than a traditional PCR test. It also doesn’t need to be processed by a lab.
The tests planned by Heathrow would be carried out before your flight and processed at an on-site lab. This would mean that you will need to arrive substantially earlier at the airport.
The would replace quarantine or other forms of restiction on arrival. One stumbling block is, of course, the requirement for the arrival country to accept the test as valid.
Another stumbling block, presumably, is the willingness of airlines to refund passengers who fail a test an hour before departure …..
Price aside, airport testing would be substantially easier than the current system. With NHS tests now hard to find – and reserved for those with covid symptons – travellers are having to rely on private labs. Many of these are failing to deliver results in the promised time frames, and if you are not based in London you may struggle to even find a clinic offering them.