Virgin Atlantic is to run a pre-departure Covid-19 testing trial on some flights from Heathrow to Barbados.
The trial will launch on 9 December on selected flights from Heathrow to Barbados and onwards to Antigua and Grenada.
Under the trial, passengers will be asked to take a free rapid Covid test at Collinson and Swissport’s pre-departure testing facility in Terminal 2 before being cleared to fly.
Virgin Atlantic said the trial was part of “an airline-led trial to gather vital data on the logistics and effectiveness of pre-departure testing”.
The carrier is continuing to push for a replacement to the government’s new “test to release” scheme, which is due to start on 15 December and will cut the quarantine period for arrivals from destinations without a travel corridor with England.
Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive, said: “The new UK test to release scheme is a vital first step in reopening 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.
“Our Heathrow-Barbados testing trial, in close collaboration with partners including Collinson, Heathrow and the Barbados Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, will gather vital data on the efficacy of a pre-departure testing regime to safely replace quarantine.
“We hope that testing will also lead the way for US borders to open to UK travellers.”
Covid tests will be conducted at Heathrow up to one hour 45 minutes before departure. The test only takes up to five minutes to complete; passengers will receive results in less than 30 minutes and will be able to proceed to security and boarding if the test is negative.
Passengers on the trial flights to the Caribbean will still face “multi-faceted measures” and PCR test entry requirements on arrival in Barbados, Antigua and Grenada.
Virgin plans to move to a second phase of the trial from 15 December with pre-departure rapid testing introduced for selected inbound flights to the UK.