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British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and London Heathrow Airport launch vaccination status trials

British Airways (BA), Virgin Atlantic (VA) and London Heathrow Airport (HA) have joined hands and launched vaccination status trials in order to prove that it’s possible to quickly and easily verify those arriving into the United Kingdom who are fully vaccinated – an identification process already in place for outbound travel to several countries.

Joining hands

Earlier this week, Germany became the latest country to confirm it would accept fully vaccinated from the United Kingdom without the need to quarantine. The new UK proving trial, enabling inbound travellers to present their fully vaccinated status, will support the Government to move forward with its plans to remove quarantine for fully vaccinated passengers entering the UK from ‘amber list’ countries.

This initiative will see fully vaccinated volunteers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to London Heathrow showing proof of their vaccine status. The 3 groups say that this trial ‘aims to reassure Government that airlines and airports can check vaccine status upstream and away from the Border, ensuring no further pressure in UK immigration halls’.

Those passengers taking part in the trial will be able to use a dedicated arrivals lane at the border and those travelling on British Airways will be able to access a discounted rate for the mandatory arrivals tests.

Internationally recognised vaccination credentials will be accepted in the proving trial including the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and EU Digital Covid Credential. British Airways 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 and backed by TrustAssure™ technology.

Additionally, according to all BA, VA and HA, as the proof-of-concept develops, the options for passengers to show vaccine status will rapidly be expanded, across physical, digital and integrated formats, including IATA Travel Pass.

Sean Doyle, CEO and Chairman, British Airways said:

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.

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The United Kingdom has led the world with its successful vaccine programme, which the government ‘promised’ would lead to the end of COVID restrictions. According to the latest data from Public Health England (PHE) to date, 86% of UK adults have had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, with 64% fully vaccinated. Additionally, data from PHE has shown two doses of the vaccines offer 79% protection against becoming ill from the Delta variant and reduces the likelihood of needing hospitalisation by 96%.

Both the airlines and Heathrow airport say that despite this incredible achievement, the UK is ‘failing to reap the economic and social rewards, falling behind countries like France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, all of which accept fully vaccinated travellers, including United States residents, without the need for quarantine’. Furthermore, the US also allows its fully vaccinated residents to avoid self-isolation.

The UK government’s own transparency data also continues to show very low positivity in test results from ‘green’ and ‘amber’ country arrivals, with just 0.4% testing positive, and none of them had a variant of concern.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said:

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.

Jobs at stake

Representatives from the travel industry have been clear about the consequences for the UK’s economy and jobs of not opening the corridor quickly enough, with hundreds taking part in a day of action on 23rd June 2021. Heathrow released new research from CEBR, reinforcing the importance of aviation to the Government’s ambitions for Global Britain, which could help industry deliver a £204 billion trade boost to benefit every corner of the UK.

London Heathrow airport has warned that this cannot be realised unless the UK’s aviation industry is supported by Government policies to resume flying as soon as possible. By capitalising on the country’s vaccine dividend, ministers can help to deliver this economic stimulus for exporters across Britain, ensuring the UK retains its competitive edge as the country comes out of lockdown.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom restated that this important step to exempt fully vaccinated travellers from self-isolation would happen ‘later this summer’, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps set to provide more details this week.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport 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.

BA, VA and HA are hoping that the proof-of-concept will encourage the Government to introduce exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers no later than 19th July, allowing the UK to catch-up with the European Union and United States, which have already introduced similar schemes.

What do you think of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport trialling this new concept? Let me know in the comments section below.

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