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Heathrow Airport planning to charge £150 for coronavirus tests on departure

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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.”

Heathrow Covid-19 testing

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.

Comments (105)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • David Langhorne says:

    Does Heathrow and BA etc think this proposed exorbitant charge for testing is going to actually encourage people to fly ? Rather the opposite I suspect. Maybe many passengers can put this on their expenses but the majority will be travelling on leisure rather than business. In many cases this charge will be more than the cost of a single air ticket. Also, how many hours should be allowed at the airport before check-in ?

    • Rob says:

      The hope, to be fair, is that testing would allow new destinations to open up. New York is the one being talked about as a test. Of course, once the tests are available, it is possible that Italy / Greece etc may suddenly decide that you need one in which case it is an additional expense.

    • dezbez says:

      100% agree. Heathrow should be focussed on enabling it’s core business ie encouraging people to fly again, rather than seeing this as a new line of business, which might have some very limited short term success. And that means trying to offer it as cheaply as possible.

  • John says:

    I paid around £150 for each of the 3 trips I have taken in the COVID era (yes the entire trip 3x 2 nights each – to France, Germany and Switzerland – eurostar/flights £60 and hotels £50/night) so I certainly wouldn’t pay a further £150.

    If I needed to see a relative urgently then even £500 might be worth paying.

    For an expensive trip where £150 is 5% of the total cost then I also wouldn’t mind.

    The problem is that I don’t want to test positive even if I am highly unlikely to, seeing as the most risky thing I do at the moment is go to Sainsburys once a week. So it’s a bit selfish but I’d rather just stick with what we had in August where we could go to some countries without doing anything except wearing a mask 🙁

    I can quarantine on arrival in the UK but I absolutely can’t afford to be forced into isolation in say Greece if I happened to get infected at LHR security or on the plane….

  • Paul says:

    Rip Off Britain…..Heathrow remains a national embarrassment even when most of it is closed

    • Will says:

      👍 presumably it’s the Heathrow Express salespeople doing the rounds for the covid tests.

      I’m not a fan of big government but surely public health is one area they should be in control of?

      • Callum says:

        When it can’t provide enough tests to test all of those with actual symptoms (including teachers etc), there’s no way on Earth they should be diverting resources to help out people jetting off on foreign vacations…

  • John says:

    Currently I’m managing between 25-30k HH points a month on the HH BC.

    Due to some great points bargains, I’m considering upping that to 100k a month, pretty much rinsing my credit limit 2.5x over per month.

    I don’t wish to get KYC’d, are BC pretty hot on that? Even so, there is nothing illegal about moving your own money between accounts. It would just be a hassle.

    Have any of you experienced any issues with such amounts? From comments here, I get the impression some of you are “spending” in excess of 1m GBP annually?

    • Anna says:

      Give it a try and let us know – I’m 3/4 of the way to a 10-night points stay at the Seychelles Northolme resort where apparently you can do your 5 day quarantine in relative comfort!

      • MD says:

        Go to Labriz instead Anna, it’s much better!

        • Anna says:

          Is that on the quarantine list? Also is that the one with the expensive boat transfer? The extra cost and faffing around puts me off that one, even though it’s less points. Also the most recent reviews are not at all complimentary about the F & B and there’s no other choice!

          • MD says:

            I’m not sure. It is surprisingly hard to find a clear list of what’s open, but they seem to be taking bookings so I assume so. Yes it does need a the boat transfer, but we felt it was well worth it. Northolme was perfectly fine, but no beach and Silhouette Island was just absolutely gorgeous. Surprised to hear about the bad food reviews, there were far more dining options at Labriz than Northolme and we found the food to be excellent. Maybe with COVID they have cut down the options?

          • Anna says:

            I will have another look. I’m giving it till the beginning of December and if by then the Cayman Islands are still showing no sign of re-opening to tourists I’m going to move to Plan B. (The first stumbling block could be getting BA to move our flights of course).

      • John says:

        I can’t see the point of using points there… the rates are low, and far below the values of points needed. Add in the hotel will be getting like £45 with low occupancy and I wouldn’t bet on a great upgrade either.

        • Anna says:

          Rates start at 540 euros per night for our travel dates! But nice for you if that’s a low price lol.

          • John says:

            That will sink. They’re isn’t a chance in hell 2021 is going to be busy. I’d be more concerned that one of the hotels goes bust!

    • LarryL says:

      What are you / others ‘spending’ on if I may ask? £1M?? Not only groceries I imagine.

      • Rob says:

        For business running lots of Google and Facebook ads, that is not unusual spend.

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