Pre-departure rapid COVID-19 testing facility launched at Heathrow Airport


The COVID-19 testing facilities, located in Terminals 2 and 5, will initially be available for passengers travelling to Hong Kong and Italy.

Heathrow Airport has announced the launch of pre-departure rapid testing facilities in partnership with Collinson and Swissport.

The facilities, located in Terminals 2 and 5, will initially offer passengers travelling to Hong Kong and Italy the option to fulfil those countries’ pre-departure testing requirements at the airport before they fly. These countries currently require passengers to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure, but allow for testing technologies that can deliver fast results. These tests, including LAMP and Antigen tests, can easily be administered pre-flight at the airport.

These tests differ from the PCR testing, which a growing number of countries and territories around the world, including Cyprus, Greece, Bahamas, and Bermuda now require to be shown at check-in. Unlike PCR tests, LAMP and Antigen tests can be processed quickly and without being sent to a laboratory.

The new pre-departure facilities will process LAMP tests for departing passengers from Tuesday 20 October, and will seek to add other tests, including Antigen, as global governments continue to accept a wider variety of testing methods as an alternative to travel restrictions and quarantines.

The private test costs £80 and aims to provide departing passengers with their results in around 60 minutes. Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines all fly routes that now require pre-departure tests, and so it is hoped this facility will ensure a smooth and safe pre-flight experience for these passengers. Passengers will be asked to ensure they book a test ahead of time and will be provided timing guidelines with regard to check-in by their airline.

The announcement follows the launch of Collinson and Swissport’s existing ‘Test-on-Arrival’ facility at Heathrow, which is yet to gain UK Government approval for use.

Passengers interested in using the facility will need to set up an account and book their test online on www.collinsongroup.com, before beginning their journey to the airport. The tests will be carried out by Collinson nurses in a dedicated facility landside at the airport. During the appointment, a swab will be taken for testing, which is processed immediately using a new LAMP-based method developed by Oxford University and processed onsite at the airport by staff from one of Collinson’s biotech partners, Prenetics. This new test-on-departure process will help passengers leaving the UK to meet requirements of governments worldwide, while giving peace of mind to all travellers that everyone who has boarded their plane will have only been allowed to do so by showing a negative test result.

Heathrow Airport has also stated that it is urging the Government’s new Global Travel Taskforce to launch a testing regime that provides a safe alternative to the existing 14-day quarantine.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO, Heathrow, commented: “Many other countries are already using testing to keep their borders safe while restarting trade and travel. These facilities will make it easier for passengers going to those countries to get a test and have the potential to provide a service for arriving passengers. Ultimately, we need a Common International Standard for pre-departure testing, and we welcome the UK government’s recent announcement that it wants to take a global lead in establishing this. We will work with them to make this happen as soon as possible, so that we protect livelihoods as well as lives.”

British Airways’ Chief Executive Sean Doyle, added: “The UK’s economic recovery depends on the swift re-opening of the UK’s skies and we need a worldwide agreement that fast, reliable pre-departure testing is the safest and quickest way to get people flying again. The latest data from IATA suggests the risk of contracting Covid-19 on aircraft is extremely low. It’s vital we work together as an industry to explore every option to get travel moving.”

“We launched ‘Test-on-Arrival’ to help get the travel ecosystem moving again and are now launching pre-departure testing to help support passengers departing the UK too,” said David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “With countries around the world adding the UK to their list of ‘high risk’ countries, we need to find a way to work with governments, leading travel brands and other commercial entities to safely open up travel out of the UK. Government restrictions around the world will continue to fluctuate, but we, with our medical services and biotech partner network, have the capability to flex our offering to bespoke country needs, ensuring that, whatever the restriction, we can provide a way to keep travel moving, safely, without negatively impacting UK public testing capacity.”

The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are continuously evolving. Our friends at APEX have a dedicated COVID-19 page, which they’ll be updating regularly to help keep you up-to-date on how the novel coronavirus is impacting the aviation industry. Visit the page for the very latest news >>

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