Pre-departure rapid COVID-19 testing facilities launched at Heathrow Airport

Posted: 21 October 2020 | | No comments yet

Collinson and Swissport have launched the testing site at Heathrow, once again highlighting the three bodies as pioneers in driving travel recovery from COVID-19.

Pre-departure rapid testing facilities launched at Heathrow Airport

Credit: London Heathrow Airport

Collinson and Swissport have announced the launch of pre-departure rapid COVID-19 testing facilities at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

The industry-leading testing facilities, a UK first, are a critical step in the sector’s recovery, restoring traveller confidence and re-opening routes from the UK to the rest of the world.

The facilities, located in Terminals 2 and 5, will initially offer passengers travelling to Hong Kong the option to fulfil those countries’ pre-departure testing requirements at the airport before they fly. Hong Kong currently requires passengers to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure, but allow for testing technologies that can deliver fast results. These tests, including LAMP and Antigen tests, can easily be administered pre-flight at the airport.

These tests differ from RT-PCR, which a growing number of countries and territories around the world – including Cyprus, Greece, the Bahamas and Bermuda – now require to be shown at check-in. Unlike RT-PCR tests, LAMP and Antigen tests can be processed quickly and without being sent to a laboratory.

Developments in international testing are fast-moving, and the Heathrow-based rapid testing sites have the potential to facilitate a wide range of testing methods, either pre-departure or on arrival. Pre-departure is one of a number of testing regimes being implemented around the world, and a crucial next step toward keeping the travel industry moving while limiting the spread of the virus. The testing facilities will initially be open for four weeks, monitoring passenger and airline demand.

The new pre-departure facilities will process LAMP tests for departing passengers from 20 October 2020, and will seek to add other tests, including Antigen, as global governments continue to accept a wider variety of testing methods as an alternative to travel restrictions and quarantines.

The private test costs £80 and aims to provide departing passengers with their results in around 60 minutes. Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines all fly routes that now require pre-departure tests, and so it is hoped this facility will ensure a smooth and safe pre-flight experience for these passengers. Passengers will be asked to ensure that they book a test ahead of time and will be provided with timing guidelines in regards to check-in by their airline.

The announcement follows the launch of Collinson and Swissport’s existing ‘Test-on-Arrival’ facility at Heathrow, that, while made available for use in August 2020, is still yet to gain UK government approval for use. Now that Heathrow has facilities that allow for passengers to be tested either on arrival or prior to departure, the aviation industry is urging the government’s new Global Travel Taskforce to launch a testing regime that provides a safe alternative to the existing 14-day quarantine.

The outbound testing facilities once again mark Collinson, Swissport and Heathrow as pioneers in driving travel recovery – ensuring that passengers can take to the skies safely, and in line with worldwide government guidelines.  

Passengers interested in using the facility will need to set up an account and book their test online before beginning their journey to the airport. The tests will be carried out by Collinson nurses in a dedicated facility landside at the airport. During the appointment, a swab will be taken for testing, which is processed immediately using a new LAMP-based method developed by Oxford University and processed onsite at the airport by staff from one of Collinson’s biotech partners, Prenetics.

This new test-on-departure process will help passengers leaving the UK to meet requirements of governments worldwide, while giving peace of mind to all travellers that everyone who has boarded their plane will have only been allowed to do so by showing a negative test result.

Joint CEO at Collinson, David Evans, said: “We launched ‘Test-on-Arrival’ to help get the travel ecosystem moving again and are now launching pre-departure testing to help support passengers departing from the UK, too. With countries around the world adding the UK to their list of ‘high risk’ countries, we need to find a way to work with governments, leading travel brands and other commercial entities to safely open up travel out of the UK. Government restrictions around the world will continue to fluctuate, but we, with our medical services and biotech partner network, have the capability to flex our offering to bespoke country needs, ensuring that, whatever the restriction, we can provide a way to keep travel moving, safely, without negatively impacting UK public testing capacity.”

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport’s CEO, said: “Many other countries are already using testing to keep their borders safe while restarting trade and travel. These facilities will make it easier for passengers going to those countries to get a test and have the potential to provide a service for arriving passengers. Ultimately, we need a Common International Standard for pre-departure testing, and we welcome the UK government’s recent announcement that it wants to take a global lead in establishing this. We will work with them to make this happen as soon as possible, so that we protect livelihoods as well as lives.”

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