Airlines said it was “light at the end of the tunnel” for the struggling travel industry, but said most trips would only return when a pre-departure testing regime was in place.
Passengers who choose to use the program must book a test before traveling – and pay for it privately – from a list of government-approved providers, which has not yet been released. The cost is probably between £ 65 and £ 120.
Anyone arriving in England by plane, ferry or train will still need to complete a passenger locator form and self-isolate for five full days before taking a test.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said the plan “would ensure that our route out of this pandemic is prudent and balanced, allowing us to focus on what we can now do to strengthen international travel while ensuring safety. public.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see our loved ones and boost international business. By giving people the choice to test on Day 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild itself out of the pandemic.
A travel task force, chaired by Shapps, reported to the prime minister earlier this month. According to Shapps, a test after five days of self-isolation would give more accurate results and reduce the risk of false negatives, compared to an arrival test favored by airlines and airports. The government cited the examples of Germany and Iceland, which changed arrival testing regimes in favor of a similar deferred test.
British Airways and Virgin both described the move as an important step in the right direction, but said a pre-departure testing regime was needed.
Airlines UK said the move is expected to lead to a temporary surge in demand. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry association, said: “That said, a fifth day test does not remove the quarantine and that is why we look forward to working with the government to move to a diet. pre-departure or national test. But now there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Travel association Abta said this would make travel more attractive and manageable, but there was “still work to be done to support the industry’s recovery, including setting up a testing program for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. ”
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) said momentum was building around the world for testing to replace quarantine. Its managing director, Alexandre de Juniac, said: “The encouraging results of the testing of pilot programs should now give states the confidence to move forward quickly.”
Iata said he was finalizing a digital ‘travel pass’ that could, with the agreement of governments, allow passengers to store all vaccination or testing information, as well as travel documents. and tickets, thus enabling more contactless travel at airports and reducing the risk of the virus spreading.
Meanwhile, the UK government has announced increased financial support for struggling airports and ground handlers in England with a program, from 2021, that would address fixed costs and be equivalent to their business rates.
With a cap of £ 8million per company, it is likely to be well received by smaller regional airports, but represents a fraction of the money sought by Heathrow, which is pushing it to drop its bill for tariffs of over £ 100 million per year.
The aviation industry has criticized the lack of government assistance, after Chancellor Rishi Sunak raised hopes early in the pandemic that tailor-made assistance would be offered. However, Sunak said the government had supported the industry “throughout this crisis through the job maintenance program, loans and tax deferrals.”