Virgin Atlantic has partnered with Delta Air Lines to launch a “digital blueprint to reopen transatlantic travel”.
The intention is that the Fly Ready tool will allow customers travelling in either direction between the US and UK to securely upload negative Covid-19 test certificates for upcoming flights.
The tool is similar to several already launched, some of which are apps, some of which are technologies incorporated into airlines’ websites. One example, which has had mixed reviews so far, is the Verifly app being trialled by American Airlines and British Airways.
As Business Traveller wrote in March of this year, Virgin has been testing the Fly Ready tool along with the IATA Travel Pass.
The Fly Ready tool promises that documentation will be validated “in less than two minutes” by Trust Assure’s “robust artificial intelligence- solution”. Customers’ ‘Fly Ready Status’ will then be automatically linked to their booking. According to Virgin, this will help to speed up the airport experience by reducing the need for additional in-person checks.
There will also be a dedicated fast-track check-in lane at London Heathrow for customers with Fly Ready Status.
Customers can also use the Fly Ready tool to find and book an in-person Covid-19 test up to three days prior to departure via the lab locator tool. This will require a town or postcode, and results can be filtered based on lab proximity and the type of test required.
This news comes after last week’s launch of the bilateral Atlantic Taskforce, which will focus on the reopening of travel between the UK and US, and recent reports that the UK government is considering lifting testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers returning from ‘amber’ countries.
From this week, Fly Ready will be integrated into the ‘My Booking’ page on the airline’s website. Customers on the mentioned routes will be contacted “over the coming fortnight” with clear instructions on using the tool. According to Virgin, the Fly Ready tool will be rolled out to other services “as the product expands”.
While the launch version of the tool only supports Covid-19 test results as health credentials for travel, there are plans to incorporate vaccination status “later this summer”. As it stands, passengers entering the UK from the US need to provide a Passenger Locator Form, and proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.
Last month, Virgin Atlantic partnered with UK health firm Prenetics to offer at-home tests and packages, which include ‘carry along’ pre-departure lateral flow tests for trips from the US to the UK.
The airline is not, however, currently offering bundles or pre-departure outbound tests for the US via Prenetics, as the US requires in-person tests or at-home tests administered via video tutorial. According to Virgin, Prenetics is currently developing a video tutorial option which is set to launch soon.
Delta has led the development and testing of the tool with Trust Assure, and all customer health data is encrypted and will not be stored in either airline’s systems. At airport check-in, a digital indicator will simply show that the customer has met the testing requirements for their destination. Delta Fly Ready (instead of Virgin Atlantic Fly Ready) will be available for customers on Delta-operated transatlantic flights.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, said:
“Virgin Atlantic Fly Ready will help to strengthen customers’ confidence as they return to the skies with us, by making their transatlantic journeys as smooth and seamless as possible, while navigating new Covid-19 travel requirements in a convenient digital format. Our commitment is to ensure every single customer flies safe and well and we’re delighted to be working closely with our partners Delta Air Lines and TrustAssure to launch this innovative integrated solution, which will be further developed to include vaccination status.
“With world-leading vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, there is a clear opportunity to safely open up travel between these two low-risk countries and allow vaccinated travellers to be free from testing and quarantine, consistent with the approach taken by the US and the EU. We urge the UK Government to move the US to the UK’s ‘Green list’ and for the Biden administration to repeal the 212F proclamation for UK travellers. There is no reason to delay.”
Allison Ausband, EVP and Chief Customer Experience Officer at Delta, added:
“Customers need a help navigating the complex requirements of post-COVID transatlantic travel. We’ve been working with our partners at Virgin Atlantic to develop this solution as an easy-to-use, reliable and effective way to remove guesswork for customers and our employees – all with no third-party app download needed.”
Virgin Atlantic customers can also now complete the mandatory US Passenger Attestation Form via the airline’s website for travel to the US. This will be linked to their booking when they arrive at check-in at London Heathrow or Manchester airport.
Meanwhile, the airline’s trial of the IATA Travel Pass on London Heathrow-Barbados services has been extended until August 1.