United Airlines to run first Covid free flight from London to New York

United Airlines will run first Covid free transatlantic flight from London to New York this week in pilot scheme that raises hopes of travel corridor between the two cities

  • United Airlines will run the scheme over the month and will report findings 
  • Rapid testing will take place at New York’s Newark airport during the scheme
  • The first flight is scheduled to touch down at Heathrow on Tuesday morning 

A new pilot scheme has raised hopes of a London-New York travel corridor being approved as pressure grows on the government to reopen the busy business route.

United Airlines will run the scheme over the month that guarantees all passengers do not have the virus and the findings will be shared with officials on both sides of the Atlantic.     

The first flight is scheduled to touch down at Heathrow on Tuesday morning and the scheme will continue for four weeks after that. 

The United Airlines trial will be free for all passengers over the age of two and rapid testing will take place at New York’s Newark airport. UK airlines are working with Heathrow on their own Covid-free pilot.

The airline has converted its United Club near gate C93 into an onsite testing facility, with the intention of every passenger receiving their results before the flight takes off. 

A new pilot scheme has raised hopes of a London-New York travel corridor being approved as pressure grows on the government to reopen the busy business route. Heathrow airport is pictured above 

Right now, Americans must quarantine for 14 days when traveling to the UK as the US is still considered a ‘red country’ and they are are mostly unable to travel to EU countries. 

The US, meanwhile, has banned travellers from Europe unless they are American citizens, have permanent residents in the states or are given a special exemption.

Josh Earnest, United Airlines’ chief communication officer, said: ‘The benefit right now is that people – for free – can have the peace of mind knowing when they board the plane that everyone else who’s on that plane has recently tested negative for COVID-19.’ 

Customers who test positive for COVID-19 will be isolated and not be allowed to board. 

United Airlines will run the scheme over the month that guarantees all passengers do not have the virus and the findings will be shared with officials on both sides of the Atlantic

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and the Prime Minister are under growing pressure from business leaders and the aviation industry to reopen the route. 

The London to New York route is one of the busiest in the world and is one of the most profitable journeys for airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.  

It comes as Heathrow recently lost its status as as Europe’s busiest airport – being overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle.  

The hope is that by sharing the trial’s findings, it will convince the UK and US governments to give a travel corridor the green light.

It comes amid reports travel quarantine is to be cut from two weeks to one under plans to get Britain flying again.

A taskforce set up by ministers has concluded that increased use of Covid testing could allow the current 14-day restriction to be slashed next month.

The group’s report, expected to be approved by the Government, has recommended travellers returning from virus hotspots should be asked to quarantine for five days before being tested. 

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and the Prime Minister are under growing pressure from business leaders and the aviation industry to reopen the route 

Provided the test is negative, they would then be released from self-isolation two days later. The strategy could be in place before Christmas. 

However experts say this will still deter some businessmen and women, many of whom travel on more profitable business-class tickets.

In regards to the UK’s own pilot scheme – an industry group is drawing up plans for passengers to be tested 72 hours before flying, with a second test on arrival.

Some 1.25 million people travelled through the west London airport last month, compared with 7.06 million during October 2019

Earlier this week the boss of Heathrow Airport slammed a ‘lack of Government action’ to help Britain’s struggling aviation industry after figures showed a ‘catastrophic’ 82 per cent fall in passenger numbers last month.   

Just 1.25 million people travelled through the west London airport last month, compared with 7.06 million during October 2019.

North American routes saw the biggest drop, down 95 per cent year on year.

It comes against a backdrop of a series of difficulties for airlines and airports during the pandemic, which has seen cancelled flights and thousands of job losses.

Quarantine for arrivals to the UK to be slashed from 14 days after lockdown ends

Quarantine for arrivals to the UK is set to be slashed from 14 days after the lockdown ends, Grant Shapps said this week. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (file picture) told an aviation industry conference that work on a ‘test and release’ system for the border was making ‘very good progress’

The Transport Secretary said work on a ‘test and release’ system for the border was making ‘very good progress’.

He also claimed the mass testing programme launched in Liverpool last week gives ‘hope for optimism’ that quarantine-free travel could be possible.

People arriving in the UK from countries without a travel corridor are required to self-isolate for 14 days in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The aviation industry has repeatedly called for these restrictions to be eased for people who test negative for Covid-19.

There have been strong rumours that the quarantine could be reduced to as little as seven days, in what would be a desperately needed boost to airlines and business. 

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