Oneworld carriers American, British Airways to trial testing regime for US-UK flights

Nov 17, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Flyers on select American Airlines and British Airways flights to London will soon have the option to participate in a COVID-19 testing trial that aims to do away with quarantines when they land on either side of the Atlantic.

Beginning Nov. 25, travelers on three flights operated by the two Oneworld carriers departing the U.S. for London Heathrow (LHR) can join the three-test trial organized by the alliance. Eligible flights include American-operated AA50 from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and British Airways-operated BA268 from Los Angeles (LAX) and BA114 from New York JFK.

The trial will expand to American flight AA106 from New York to London at a later date.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

“We think that what the study will demonstrate is that a single PCR test 72-hours prior to departure provides a significant level of risk mitigation for governments to consider removal of quarantine,” Oneworld CEO Rob Gurney told TPG in an interview.

Trade group the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called mandatory quarantines tantamount to a “full travel ban” when it comes to international travel. International flyer volumes were down nearly 89% year-over-year in September with the organization not expecting a full recovery until at least 2024.

This prognosis has prompted airlines and governments to look to coronavirus testing regimes as a way to begin reopening international travel. Hong Kong and Singapore plan to introduce a quarantine-free “travel bubble” between them built around negative COVID-19 tests on Nov. 22. And U.S. airlines have jumped to offer flyers pre-flight testing options in order to restart travel to places like Hawaii.

However, testing that reopens international travel — especially on busy and lucrative routes between the U.S. and UK — remains the goal of most U.S. carriers. For example, United Airlines is trialing free pre-flight testing for its London flight departing Newark (EWR).

Related: United Airlines tests potential travel bubble solution on London-Newark flight

All adult flyers on the participating American and British Airways flights will be invited to join the trial before departure. If they opt to participate, they will undergo three COVID-19 tests: one at home 72-hours before they fly, one at Heathrow after they land and a final test three-days after they arrive in London.

The tests will be free to participants. Oneworld aims to wrap up the trial in early December, once around 500 travelers have participated.

Gurney cautions that participants will not be able to avoid the UK’s mandatory 14-day quarantine once they arrive in London. However, non-personal data from the trial will be shared with both the U.S. and UK governments in an effort to “produce a body of evidence” where testing can scientifically replace quarantines. Neither government is directly involved in the trial.

Related: American Airlines further expands preflight COVID testing options

Asked how the trial by American and British Airways compares to the others already underway, Gurney reiterated that the alliance’s program aims to establish scientific proof that testing can eliminate the risk of spreading COVID.

Other trials underway, for example with The Commons Projects’ CommonPass app, are focused more on transmitting testing data to airlines and governments as part of reopening international travel, said Gurney.

Oneworld is overseeing the trial as part of a larger aim to use the results to help restart travel across markets for its member airlines. While the U.S.-UK is the first market involved, the alliance hopes to use the data to help set up testing regimes in other international markets.

“We certainly want to see the removal of quarantine[s], and we certainly want to see [them] removed safely,” said Gurney.

Related: Alaska Airlines sets new date for full Oneworld membership

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.