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American, British Airways, oneworld to trial COVID-19 tests

·2-min read
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

LONDON (Reuters) - American Airlines <AAL.O>, British Airways <ICAG.L>, and the oneworld alliance will launch a coronavirus testing trial this month aimed at convincing the U.S. and UK governments to introduce testing so that transatlantic travel can restart.

BA was operating 84 flights per week between London Heathrow and New York JFK prior to the pandemic, but last week operated just 21.

BA CEO Sean Doyle said that without a travel testing regime, Britain was being left behind countries such as Germany.

Alongside its partners, BA plans to collect data from at least 500 passengers on flights from three U.S. cities to London Heathrow by asking them to take three free COVID-19 tests as part of their journey: one before departure, one on landing, and one three days after their arrival.

"What we're trying to evidence here is the effectiveness of testing to replace quarantines," BA CEO Doyle, who has been in the role for just six weeks, told reporters on a call.

He said that recent positive vaccine news was encouraging but it was unclear when a vaccine would start to have a material effect on travel.

The data collected from the trial, which will start on Nov. 25, will be collated by independent scientists and presented to UK ministers to help convince them to drop a 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals from most countries.

"If we have a testing framework that is there, you know regardless of the development of the pandemic, it gives people certainty from which they can plan," Doyle said.

In one of his first media appearances since taking up the CEO job at BA, which is owned by IAG <ICAG.L>, Doyle said the airline needed to be proactive in coming up with solutions to the crisis.

Britain's transport minister said on Friday he would be making an announcement on changes to the country's 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals "very soon".

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Jason Neely)