The first Virgin Atlantic flight of a six-week pre-flight Covid testing trial took off on Thursday morning (10 December).
All passengers aged five and above were tested before the flight at Heathrow Terminal 2’s pre-departure testing facility, run by Collinson and Swissport.
In total, all 162 passengers eligible to be tested, as well as the 11 crew, tested negative before the aircraft took off shortly before 10.30am.
Thursday’s Barbados flight, VS131, was the first in a six-week pre-departure testing trial, offering free, rapid, point-of-care lateral-flow antigen tests.
Customers on select Heathrow-Barbados flights, and those travelling onwards to Antigua and Grenada, will be requested to take a test on departure.
The results of the trial will contribute to what Virgin claims is the largest study of pre-departure testing.
Virgin said it hoped the real-world data would "support existing evidence on the effectiveness of pre-departure testing" and "help inform and influence policymaking".
The carrier said it would continue to lead calls for the introduction of a "robust" pre-departure testing regime, "to swiftly and safely replace the new UK ‘test to release’ scheme".
Test and release, which will allow travellers returning from non-travel corridor destinations take a test on the fifth day of their 14-day self-isolation requirement to release themselves from quarantine, will get under way on 15 December.
Corneel Koster, Virgin chief customer and operating officer, said: “We’re grateful to everyone taking part in this important trial, with each recipient of a rapid test contributing to new learning on the efficacy and logistics of a pre-departure testing regime, supporting the safe removal of quarantine.
“The upcoming UK ‘test to release’ scheme is a vital first step in re-opening the skies, but we must now move rapidly towards a single test pre-departure regime in order to ensure the survival of UK aviation and protect 500,000 jobs reliant on the sector.”
Tests take the form of a nasal swab, administered by a nurse, with the process taking less than five minutes. Results are typically delivered within 30 minutes, and took just five during the first trial.
Virgin’s airport testing trial run in parallel to Barbados’s inbound testing requirements, with support from the Barbados ministry of tourism and international transport.
Virgin is also planning a second "complementary" phase of its trial to gather data with pre-departure rapid testing for selected inbound services.