a sign in an airport

London Heathrow Airport, typically one of the largest airports in the world by any measure, is currently operating as a skeleton of its former self. UK quarantine and other restrictions crushed demand for summer travel, and to make matters worse, travelers require covid-19 certification for select departing flights can’t easily get one. It’s either a private test in London, or bust – at least for the time being.

However, news is emerging of a potential silver lining, with Heathrow Airport and the UK Government aiming to add ‘on site’ testing, which could help some travelers bypass quarantine. Unfortunately, early plans leave much to be desired, and in reality – they’re extremely late.

a person holding test tubesHeathrow Covid-19 Testing

UK Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps has been quoted stating that the UK Government is no longer opposed to the concept of a negative, certified covid-19 test allowing travelers to bypass UK 14 day quarantine requirements, even from areas where one would typically apply.

The news come at the same time as an announcement from Heathrow Airport with plans to trial covid-19 testing on arrival from Terminal 2, in partnership with Swissport and Collinson. Austria, Luxembourg, Iceland and other countries have been offering such quarantine exemptions for months, bolstering airline demand. Now, the UK is looking to cash in, albeit months late.

The move would allow travelers to submit to a test at their own expense, estimated by to cost somewhere in the £100-£200 range, but bypass quarantine, if a negative result is returned. In the interim, the traveler would make their way to their planned “quarantine” location, but would be allowed to resume life as normal, or at least as close as life will be for a while, and move around, once a negative result comes in.

Test results are expected in under 24 hours, which while better than some, is a far cry from the 3-6 hour testing already offered at European airports such as Vienna, Luxembourg and Frankfurt. Frankfurt Airport offers an express option, with tests and results completed in under 3 hours, with an internationally valid certificate for €148. A standard test taking six hours is a mere €59, and the certificate is an extra €9.

Adding further context, Dubai Airport and Emirates began testing on departure in mid April.

people sitting in a terminalWhat about Terminal 5, And British Airways?

British Airways, Heathrow’s largest operator can’t be happy with trial plans. British Airways operates out of Terminal 5, where testing would not initially be available, according to the Independent, and therefore a huge competitive advantage would be given to virtually every other airline.

If true, British Airways would be placed at a very unfair disadvantage. British Airways previously enjoyed the world’s only route generating $1 billion annually between New York JFK and London Heathrow, predominantly from business travel, but business travelers from destinations not currently exempt under the UK’s rules would obviously need to pick an airline temporarily flying into Terminal 2, if its the only way to avoid quarantine.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Emirates withdrew the testing soon after it commenced back in April 2020. The results were mostly unreliable or wrong.

    Hopefully these ones at Heathrow will be accurate.

    1. A move they could only learn from by trying it, in April. It’s July now, and the fact that there is no launch date says everything about how backwards it all is.

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