Heathrow is to work with transatlantic airlines to evaluate pre-departure testing when it begins in two weeks, hoping the results will pave the way to extend the scheme.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United will offer pre-departure testing on some routes from 15 December. Results of the trial will be collated by Heathrow and the final report shared with UK and US governments.
The UK government’s Test to Release initiative will give passengers the option to reduce their quarantine period from 14 days to five, providing they test negative for the virus.
Heathrow said: “While the aviation industry has welcomed ‘Test to Release’, it has been clear that the ultimate objective for passenger testing is a pre-departure regime, and the combined airline trials aim to make the case for this much needed solution.”
Trials will be free for passengers and it is expected the study will assess the effectiveness of PCR tests, LAMP and Lateral Flow Antigen devices, where used on each airline’s trial routes.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye, said: “These trials will build on the government’s initial testing strategy, setting a standard for a safer and more comprehensive approach to passenger testing, that we hope will accelerate the return to travel as we once knew it.”
BA and American Airlines will conduct trials on some flights to JFK, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. United is offering it on certain flights to Newark and Virgin on services to Barbados, Antigua and Grenada from 9 December.