UK carriers British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are working with London Heathrow airport to carry out proving trials aimed at demonstrating the smooth processing of fully vaccinated travellers entering the country.
The study aims to reassure the UK Government that airlines and airports can check a passenger’s vaccine status away from the border, ensuring no further pressure in UK immigration halls. Those taking part in the trial will be able to use a dedicated arrivals lane at the airport.
Customers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to London Heathrow will in the coming days be invited to take part in the proving trial.
For the trial flights, internationally recognised vaccination credentials including the UK NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and EU Digital Covid Credential will be accepted. BA will also support customers’ vaccine verification through the VeriFLY app and Virgin Atlantic customers can verify their vaccine certificate through a new digital uploader tool, developed in partnership with Delta Air Lines..
The options for customers to show vaccine status will be expanded as the trial continues across different formats, including the IATA Travel Pass.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 5 July said exempting fully vaccinated travellers from self-isolation would happen ”later this summer”. The carriers and Heathrow are hoping the proof-of-concept study will encourage the government to introduce exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers no later than 19 July, noting countries in the EU and the USA have already introduced similar schemes.
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle says: ”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.”
The Heathrow initiative includes a focus on North American flights, as they press for the reopening of transatlantic flights.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss says: ”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.
“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.”
Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye adds: “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.”
Eurocontrol data shows flight activity across the past seven days at Heathrow remains 64% down on the corresponding period in 2019.