British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport have joined forces to prove it is possible to verify those passengers arriving in the UK who are fully vaccinated – an identification process already in place for outbound travel to several countries. Earlier this week, Germany became the latest country to confirm it would accept fully vaccinated UK travellers without the need to quarantine. The new UK proving trial, enabling inbound travellers to present their fully vaccinated status, will support the government to move forward with its plans to remove quarantine for double jabbed passengers entering the UK from ‘amber list’ countries.
The initiative will see fully vaccinated volunteers travel on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to London Heathrow, showing proof of their vaccine status. The trial aims to reassure government that airlines and airports can check vaccine status upstream and away from the border, ensuring no further pressure in UK immigration halls. British Airways customers will be able to access a discounted rate for the mandatory arrivals tests.
Internationally recognised vaccination credentials will be accepted in the proving trial including the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and the EU Digital Covid Credential. British Airways will also support customers’ vaccine verification through the VeriFLY app and Virgin Atlantic customers can verify their vaccine certificate through a new digital uploader tool, developed in partnership with Delta Air Lines and backed by TrustAssure technology. As the proof-of-concept develops, the options for customers to show vaccine status will rapidly be expanded, across physical, digital and integrated formats, including the IATA Travel Pass.
Commenting on the situation, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said: “We need to act quickly to protect jobs, re-build the UK economy and reunite loved ones. We are already helping our customers show proof of their vaccination status when travelling to a number of other countries outside the UK which require it and we’re confident we can make this happen for entry to Britain too. We look forward to providing the data that proves it’s simple for fully vaccinated status to be verified and to the government meeting its commitment to get the country moving again.”
The UK has led the world with its successful vaccine programme, which the government promised would lead to the end of Covid restrictions. To date, 86 per cent of UK adults have had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, with 64 per cent fully vaccinated. Data from Public Health England has shown two doses of the vaccines offer 79 per cent protection against becoming ill from the Delta variant and reduces the likelihood of needing hospitalisation by 96 per cent.
Despite this, some airlines claim that the UK is failing to reap the economic and social rewards, falling behind countries like France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, all of which accept fully vaccinated travellers, including US residents, without the need for quarantine. The US also allows its fully vaccinated residents to avoid self-isolation. The government’s own transparency data also continues to show very low positivity in test results from ‘green’ and ‘amber’ country arrivals, with just 0.4 per cent testing positive – none with a variant of concern.
In mid-June, British airways announced that it was launching four new domestic routes from Belfast this summer, thereby supporting important business and tourism links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.