British Airways has partnered with testing provider Qured to offer discounted rapid antigen test kits in a bid to make life easier for customers having to comply with travel requirements.
The discounted “ultra-convenient” portable kits cost £33 and use a diagnostic lateral flow device (LFD) to detect a protein found inside the virus. According to Qured, the LFDs that it uses have been independently validated by Public Health England.
With international travel set to resume on May 17, the initiative allows customers to use the kits to travel to foreign destinations that accept antigen tests, and also pack the kits to take abroad in preparation for their return journey to the UK. As it stands, travellers must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before travel to be allowed entry to the UK.
This is particularly useful as it means you don’t have to search for a testing facility or provider when you’re abroad. Note however that Qured tests are only available for delivery to UK addresses, so you must order the kit before departing the country.
While we have to wait to travel until mid-May, we tested out the kit in preparation for the future. Spoiler alert: it came back negative.
Ordering the test
To order the test, you need to visit the BA website and scroll down to the ‘Test before you fly’ section, which details the airline’s partnerships with various testing providers.
Qured is listed as the first option, under the sub-heading “if you need to take a test from anywhere in the world”. Follow the link to the provider’s website, noting down the discount code BATRAVEL15. Qured offers a PCR Swab test for £99 and the rapid Covid-19 test for £39 – pick the latter and you will be redirected to the booking page.
You will be asked to pick your reason for travel, with options including Fit to Fly (plus Fit to Fly for the US, Italy and Germany), Return to the UK, Test to Release and Diagnostic (non-travel). The rapid antigen test can be used for Fit to Fly for the US, Italy and Germany only, along with Return to the UK and Diagnostic. The other options require a PCR swab test.
For the purposes of trialling the partnership, I picked “Return to the UK – pre-departure” as my reason for travel. This will automatically select the LFD test for you. I then had to fill in personal information, along with my passport number and arrival date for return to England.
There are two options for delivery: DX group is free for nationwide delivery and promises next-day delivery if you book by 3pm, while the Courier option is £29 and includes next-day drop off within the M25 if you book by 6pm. It’s now time to enter your payment information and finally the promo code.
Booking your consultation
After paying for the test, you will be sent a unique link to book a video call with a health professional who will oversee the process. While the kit promises to arrive the next day, I booked mine for two days after ordering as a precaution. There were plenty of slots available between the times of 0900 and 1800. The service can be easily cancelled and rescheduled, however, in the case of delays or changed travel plans.
It turned out that I could have easily booked my test for the following afternoon, as I received my kit by 1100, having only ordered it at 1700 the day before. I was impressed with the prompt delivery, and glad that I could also track it and view an ETA, allowing me to pop out for a walk without missing it. The kit arrived without any damage to the packaging, and is small enough to fit into your carry-on for travel.
After ordering your test, you receive a confirmation email with a secure link to the digital waiting room. Then, on the day of your test, you will receive a reminder of your video call an hour before the scheduled time.
Before my call, I checked that I had all the components of the test kit, which include a test cassette in a foil wrapper, a plastic tube, a swab in a sealed wrapper, and a bottle of solution. On your end, all you need is a pen and a timer (I used my phone). The package also includes a brochure with all the intricate details, and instructions on how to do the test, but the health professional will guide you through this.
I joined the waiting room ten minutes before my appointment as suggested and entered my name when asked. You might have to adjust your camera view so that you are within the frame at all times, and it’s best to be in a quiet room with good internet signal so that everything works smoothly. The health professional messaged me on the service to ask if I was ready for my call a few minutes early, and we started the consultation.
My health professional was warm and kind, so I felt comfortable in the short prelude to the test. She was also very knowledgeable about the test and had no qualms in answering my questions about its accuracy – the tests have a true positive rate of at least 96.4 per cent, and a true negative rate of at least 99.5 per cent.
I had taken a PCR test before, so knew what to expect in terms of the unpleasantness, but the LFD is an extremely quick procedure and much nicer to do it in the comfort of your home instead of at a drive-through centre.
To begin with, you have to unscrew the top of the plastic extraction tube and empty the solution into it before resealing it. I was then instructed to put it to one side and open the package with the swab in it from the plastic end, making sure not to touch the fabric part.
Now for the difficult part. With your face in the video frame, you have to open your mouth wide and rub the fabric tip of the swab in circular motions five times at the back of your throat where your tonsils are. This needs to be repeated on the other side as well, but I had a quick five seconds break in between to stop my eyes from watering.
Next, you are asked to put the swab gently into one nostril until you feel a bit of resistance, and rotate it ten times inside, and to then repeat with the other nostril. The health professional will ask you to put the fabric end of the swab into the bottom of the extraction tube and rotate it for ten seconds in the solution. To remove it, you must squeeze the tube and fabric end of the swab to make sure you squeeze as much fluid out as possible. Press the cap back onto the extraction tube and stand it upright in a cup to avoid leaks. For safety, I returned the swab to the wrapper and put it into the bin.
The health professional will now ask you to hold up the cassette tape, which looks suspiciously like a pregnancy test, and squeeze two drops from the extraction tube into the specimen well (marked S) on the tube as they watch. To avoid the liquid from leaking, put the cartridge on a flat surface and do not move it for the next twenty minutes. I was also told to write the date and time on the test cassette with a biro.
It’s then up to you to set a 20-minute timer, after which you will see the results.
Receiving your results
Once the timer sounds, you will be able to see the result. If there is only one visible line by C then the antigen has not been detected and the test is negative. A visible line on C and T indicates that the test is positive, and if there are no visible lines on C and T then the test is invalid and will need to be conducted again.
While you can interpret the results yourself, it needs to be verified by the Qured team. To do this, you must email a photograph of the cassette tape with visible lines alongside photographic ID to receive an official result from the providers. You must email [email protected] with the subject title: LFD – full name – time of test. If you upload it any later than 30 minutes after your appointment, it will no longer be valid. It’s a short window, so I made sure that my timer was not on silent in case I forgot about it.
I received a text and email stating that my official result was available on the portal by 1136, with a ‘fit to fly’ medical certificate validating that I was permitted to travel – a rather sore topic since I’m not allowed until May 17. The certificate can also be uploaded to the Verifly app to speed up the check-in process with BA.
If you’re unlucky enough to be positive, British Airways has said that it will rebook your flight free of charge.
I was really impressed with this service as it was quick, cheap and easy, with my negative result and certificate ready within an hour. The kit itself is very portable, so I can imagine using it for future travels, and the guidance from the health professional was very clear.
This is a great solution for those of us that are eager to travel again, as proof of negative Covid-19 tests or vaccination is likely to be required by countries when borders reopen across the world.
For more information on which airlines are offering discounted Covid-19 tests, see our feature: