Virgin Atlantic has partnered with health diagnostics company Prenetics to launch at-home Covid testing bundles. The airline will offer passengers bundles of tests based on the UK Government’s risk-based travel traffic light system for arrivals to the UK.
The UK Gives the Green Light for Travel
In light of the UK Government’s recent announcement of 12 new “green list” destinations which are deemed as being safe for travellers to visit without having to quarantine on return, industry businesses are keen to get people travelling again. London Heathrow Airport has already called for a significant expansion of countries included in the green list. The UK’s largest airport welcomed just 536,000 passengers in April 2021, down 92% from 6.2 million recorded in the same month of 2019.
The new green list effective from May 17 is as follows:
- Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira)
- New Zealand
- Faroe Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Transatlantic Travel Due to Resume
Most other countries will initially be on the “amber list”, including popular destinations for summer travel such as France, Greece and Spain. The U.S. is currently on the UK’s amber list, however, travel between the UK and the U.S. is likely to resume in the form of a reciprocal agreement between the two countries in the coming months. There are signs that the U.S. is softening its stance on travel to the UK. In April, the U.S. gave 80% of countries Level 4 status which means “Do Not Travel”, but it has now changed the UK’s status to Level 3. Level 3 status is ” Reconsider Travel.”
Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss has pushed for the U.S. to be on the UK’s green list. Weiss said there is “no reason to delay” the return of transatlantic travel as he called for flights to resume with minimal restrictions on May 17. Transatlantic routes typically account for about four-fifths of revenues for Virgin Atlantic. Last year the airline’s revenues fell by 70% to £858 million, down from £2.9 billion as a result of the pandemic.
Project Screen: Restarting Travel
As we have seen at Travel Radar, many airlines and airports keen to restart travel have developed innovative technology to help their customers manage ever-changing travel requirements. Singapore Airlines and many others have been getting on board with the concept of making Covid testing cheaper and easier for customers. Virgin Atlantic has joined forces with leading genetics and diagnostic health testing company Prenetics, to launch “Project Screen” to help Virgin customers navigate Covid-19 testing requirements for their trips.
The new initiative expands on Virgin Atlantic’s existing testing partnerships, which include an online lab locator tool and airport testing. Prenetics will now be Virgin Atlantic’s preferred at-home testing provider, with customers able to order a complete end-to-end travel testing bundle, tailored to their destination, via a dedicated microsite. Prenetics also operates Covid-19 testing sites at airports globally, including London Heathrow and Hong Kong International Airport.
How will Project Screen work?
Project Screen is an initiative aimed at making COVID-19 testing easy, safe, and accurate. Customers will be directed to the dedicated Virgin website, where they need to input their destination details, and whether the trip is one way or a return, and the site will show them the most suitable, and cheapest, test bundle for their destination. The round-trip bundles are initially available for Israel, Nigeria, and Grenada, and start from £152 for a “green list” country and £179 for an “amber” country.
The packages are only valid for destinations that accept at-home tests. For countries that do not accept such tests, the airline recommends testing providers on its website and via a lab locator tool. Virgin Atlantic is not currently offering bundles or pre-departure outbound tests for the U.S. via Prenetics as the U.S. requires in-person tests or at-home tests administered via video tutorial. All customers receive a ‘Fit to Fly’ test certificate, which can be presented in the digital pass solutions being trialled by Virgin Atlantic or in paper format.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic said:
“As the skies reopen we’re ready to ensure that we protect public health and enable our customers to book and travel smoothly with confidence. Based on the UK Government’s traffic light system, with Prenetics we have developed convenient and rapid at-home testing bundles, tailored to destination countries, including Israel which we’ll increase to double-daily services later this summer, helping customers to easily navigate new testing requirements in one simple purchase, with an important offer of flexibility to give peace of mind if a country changes tier. We cannot have a prohibitively expensive testing system that puts businesses, individuals, and families off travelling, which is why we are pleased to have worked closely with Prenetics to offer competitive prices for our customers and will continue to review these regularly. With the UK’s world-leading vaccine roll-out, the Government must also go further to expand the green list and significantly update the traffic light framework, enabling travel without testing and quarantine – for ‘Green’ countries and vaccinated passengers travelling to ‘Amber’ destinations.”
Avi Lasarow, CEO of Prenetics UK and Europe, Middle East and Africa, said:
“Prenetics is delighted to partner with one of the world’s most innovative and respected brands to make travel as easy as possible in a post pandemic world. The current travel testing environment is complicated, and can fill passengers with anxiety wondering if they have the correct test for destination or if they will receive their results in time for their journey. This partnership solves that problem. Now, for the first time, passengers will have a simple and convenient single package of tests at an affordable price to make their journey as smooth as possible. We look forward to developing further travel testing technology innovations with Virgin Atlantic this summer.”
As the UK prepares to travel again, it’s likely that we’ll see more innovation from airlines and airports as they drive recovery for the sector. There’s no doubt that the future passenger experience will benefit significantly from these innovative technological advancements to aviation and the travel industry.
What are your thoughts on Virgin Atlantic’s Project Screen initiative with Prenetics? Let us know in the comments below!