Virgin Atlantic has partnered with UK health firm Prenetics to offer at-home tests and packages based on the UK’s new traffic light system.
Last week, the UK government confirmed its new green list of countries, which includes Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel among the 12 destinations. Travellers arriving into England from these destinations will still have to take a test before they return, as well as on day two after their return, but they will not need to quarantine on arrival. The list is set to be reviewed every three weeks.
In response to this, Virgin Atlantic has created a dedicated microsite to help customers navigate the testing requirements required for their destination. Using this site, customers can either order an individual Covid-19 test (lateral flow antigen or PCR) or a travel testing bundle which can be tailored to their destination.
Customers can use the filter on the website to select the country they are travelling to and choose whether it’s a one-way or return trip. The site will then show the specific tests required for travel and will present the most suitable test bundle.
The testing packages are based on the current requirements, and will be subject to regular review. Customers will also be able to change the bundle if the country changes from green to amber (or vice versa), and will be issued with a refund or required to pay the difference.
The round-trip bundles are initially available for Israel, Nigeria and Grenada, and start from £152 for a ‘green’ country and £179 for an ‘amber’ country. When more green countries are added (that accept lateral flow antigen to enter) then the starting price will be £130. The airline states that this will be available at further destinations as requirements ease.
The PCR and Green Arrivals bundle, for instance, includes a pre-departure PCR test, a rapid antigen ‘test to carry’ for return to the UK, and a mandatory Day 2 PCR test once back in the UK. If customers buy the three tests separately, this would cost £166.
The PCR and Amber Arrivals bundle is the same but also includes a Day 8 PCR test, and the package is priced at £211 – this would cost £226 if the tests are bought individually.
There is also the option to add on a PCR test at Day 5 for test to release (for Amber countries).
The packages are only valid for destinations that accept at-home tests. For countries that do not accept such tests, the airline has recommended testing providers on its website and via a lab locator tool. This means that Virgin Atlantic is not currently offering bundles or pre-departure outbound tests for the USA via Prenetics as the US requires in-person tests or at-home tests administered via video tutorial.
An individual pre-departure PCR test is priced at £55, with customers required to send their sample via a return envelope to an accredited Prenetics lab – these results will be available within 24 hours of receipt at the lab and will be sent to customers via email or notification on the website. Rapid antigen tests cost £26, with results will be available within 15-20 minutes.
All customers will receive a ‘Fit to Fly’ test certificate, which can be presented in the digital pass solutions being trialled by Virgin Atlantic or in paper format.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented:
“As the skies reopen we’re ready to ensure that we protect public health and enable our customers to book and travel smoothly with confidence. Based on the UK Government’s traffic light system, with Prenetics we have developed convenient and rapid at-home testing bundles, tailored to destination countries, including Israel which we’ll increase to double-daily services later this summer, helping customers to easily navigate new testing requirements in one simple purchase, with an important offer of flexibility to give peace of mind if a country changes tier.
“We cannot have a prohibitively expensive testing system that puts businesses, individuals, and families off travelling, which is why we are pleased to have worked closely with Prenetics to offer competitive prices for our customers and will continue to review these regularly. With the UK’s world-leading vaccine roll-out, the Government must also go further to expand the green list and significantly update the traffic light framework, enabling travel without testing and quarantine – for ‘Green’ countries and vaccinated passengers travelling to ‘Amber’ destinations.”
Indeed, Heathrow Airport has also called for a significant expansion of countries included in the government’s green list.
Avi Lasarow, CEO of Prenetics UK and Europe, Middle East and Africa, added:
“Prenetics is delighted to partner with one of the world’s most innovative and respected brands to make travel as easy as possible in a post pandemic world. The current travel testing environment is complicated, and can fill passengers with anxiety wondering if they have the correct test for destination or if they will receive their results in time for their journey. This partnership solves that problem. Now, for the first time, passengers will have a simple and convenient single package of tests at an affordable price to make their journey as smooth as possible. We look forward to developing further travel testing technology innovations with Virgin Atlantic this summer.”
To meet demand, the airline is set to more than triple the number of flights on its Heathrow-Tel Aviv route this summer, following the UK government’s decision to place Israel on the low-risk “green list” for international flights into England.