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BA, Virgin and Heathrow trial fast-tracking for vaccinated travellers

A plane lands at Heathrow Airport.

Heathrow is reportedly trialling fast-track lanes for fully vaccinated arrivals as the UK prepares to open up to quarantine-free travel from amber countries.

It has been confirmed that British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport will launch a trial this weekend whereby passengers will digitally upload vaccination certificates before departure. They will then need to present them on arrival in order to be directed to specially designated fast-track lanes.

Fully vaccinated travellers on selected flights from Athens, New York, Los Angeles and Jamaica will be offered the opportunity to take part in the trial.

The pilot is open to Britons with either the NHS app or a paper NHS certificate, US travellers with a paper certificate and EU citizens with a digital ‘green’ pass.

The government is also planning to integrate the NHS app into the Passenger Locator Form, a document that must be completed by all arrivals from amber or red countries into the UK.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, said he hoped that the trial would show that vaccination checks can be carried out safely.

“This pilot will allow us to show 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 July 19.”

The British government is aiming to ease most domestic Covid distancing measures from this date.

Britain's transport secretary Grant Shapps will announce tomorrow if quarantine for amber list countries will be scrapped. Hong Kong is currently listed as an amber region which means arrivals must quarantine for up to ten days. Even if isolation requirements are dropped, travellers from amber countries must still have a departure PCR test and another on the day of arrival or on day two of arrival into Britain.

In a joint statement, British Airways and Virgin said that the UK had led the world with its successful vaccination programme but said that it was “failing to reap the economic and social rewards” of accepting fully vaccinated travellers without the need to quarantine. Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss added that GBP23 million is lost each day from the UK economy while the transatlantic corridor remains closed.

Heathrow confirmed yesterday that it would be reopening T3 ahead of the proposed relaxed travel restrictions in mid-July. Currently only T2 and T5 are operational, with T4 dedicated to red list country arrivals. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, which normally use T3, have been temporarily hosted by T2 during the pandemic. Flights from Heathrow to Hong Kong are currently banned but routes in the opposite direction remain open.

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