British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow are launching trials for passengers to prove their fully vaccinated status in digital or paper format upon return from ‘amber’ countries.
The ‘UK proving trial’ will involve fully vaccinated travellers (i.e. 14 days after the second dose) of all nationalities on selected flights to London Heathrow. This includes BA routes from Athens and New York, and Virgin Atlantic routes from Los Angeles and Montego Bay – see a list of the flights included at the end of the article. All customers eligible for the trial will be contacted by their respective airline.
The initiative aims to convince the government to move forward with its plans to remove quarantine for fully vaccinated passengers entering the UK from ‘amber’ list countries, with schemes already in place in the EU and US.
Ministers are currently discussing the plan, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that the exemption for fully vaccinated travellers would occur “later this summer”.
British Airways participants will be able to use the Verifly app to upload and validate their vaccine credentials. They will then be able to check-in online or go to a dedicated Verifly check-in desk at Athens and JFK Terminal 7. See our review of the Verifly app here:
Virgin Atlantic participants travelling from LA will be sent a link to upload their vaccine credential to the new Fly Ready tool, or can show a digital vaccine certificate in person. Customers travelling from Montego Bay will be able to show either paper or digital certificates.
Passengers travelling with both airlines will benefit from dedicated arrivals lanes at the UK border.
The airlines state that there will be more options to show vaccine status “across physical, digital and integrated formats”, including the IATA Travel Pass, as “the proof-of-concept develops”.
The trial “aims to reassure [the] government that airlines and airports can check vaccine status upstream and away from the border, ensuring no further pressure in UK immigration halls”. For this reason, anonymised data will be shared with the UK government to provide insights into the process of verifying vaccination status.
The trial will accept WHO-approved vaccines – these include Oxford/Astra Zeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Sinopharm – and Covid-19 credentials such as the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and EU Digital Covid Credential.
Note that those taking part in the trial will still have to stick to ‘amber’ list rules during the trial period, meaning that they will have to quarantine for ten days upon return to the UK and take two Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8. BA customers will be able to access a discounted rate for the mandatory arrivals tests.
This news comes after Germany lifted its travel ban on the UK, allowing fully vaccinated visitors to enter the country without the need to quarantine. Countries including France, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta also accept fully vaccinated travellers, including US residents, wihle the US is allowing its double jabbed residents to avoid self-isolation.
BA, Virgin and Heathrow urge the government to introduce exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers “no later than July 19”. They also highlighted that the government’s data has shown a low positivity in test results from ‘green’ and ‘amber’ country arrivals, with just 0.4 per cent testing positive – none of these had a variant of concern.
Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO and Chairman, commented on the news:
“We need to act quickly to protect jobs, re-build the UK economy and reunite loved ones. We are already helping our customers show proof of their vaccination status when travelling to a number of other countries outside the UK which require it, and we’re confident we can make this happen for entry to Britain too, very quickly. We look forward to providing the data that proves it’s simple for fully vaccinated status to be verified and to the Government meeting its commitment to get the country moving again.”
Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, added:
“To reap the benefits of the UK’s world-leading vaccine roll out, the UK Government must act now to remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from ‘amber’ countries, and no later than the domestic reopening on 19th July. Our proof-of-concept trial on selected US and Caribbean routes demonstrates our readiness as an industry to rapidly operationalise the new policy, and work with Government and authorities to ensure it is smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the Transatlantic corridor, without which £23m is lost each day from the UK economy.
“The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”
Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines are set to resume operations from Heathrow’s Terminal 3 from July 15, returning to their ‘home turf’.
John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, also said:
“This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from the 19th July. In addition to this, the UK Government must make progress on reopening travel between the US after a designated taskforce was established to look at this back at the G7. Heathrow is the main port for trade in goods and services with the US, the only country with whom the UK has a trade surplus. New research today demonstrates just how critical it is to the UK economy to get the passenger planes that carry those exports off the ground. This is a vital step towards delivering the Government’s ambitions for Global Britain and they now need to act fast.”
Customers on the following routes will be able to participate in the trial:
New York (JFK) to London Heathrow (LHR)
- BA112 daily, arrives 0630
- BA182 daily, arrives 0940
Athens (ATH) to London Heathrow (LHR)
- BA623 daily, arrives 0955
- BA629 1 x weekly, arrives 1620
- BA633 1 x weekly, arrives 2150
- BA637 4 x weekly, arrives 1905 or 1855 or 1825
- BA639 5 x weekly, arrives 1525 or 1530
- BA641 5 x weekly, arrives 1725 or 1735
VS24 Los Angeles (LAX) to London Heathrow (LHR), operating daily
VS166 Montego Bay (MBJ) to London Heathrow (LHR), operating twice a week