American Airlines and British Airways Are Latest to Offer Preflight Covid Tests to Passengers

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  • Spikes in coronavirus cases, travel restrictions and quarantines have devastated international travel demand.
  • On Tuesday, American Airlines and British Airways announced a Covid-19 testing trial for U.S.-London travelers.
  • United Airlines is also trying out preflight Covid-19 testing on Newark-London flights.

American Airlines, British Airways and Oneworld, their alliance partner, later this month will offer Covid-19 testing for some passengers, the airlines announced Tuesday. It is the latest effort to spur international travel as the pandemic keeps most travelers at home.

Starting Nov. 25, travelers on certain London-bound flights from New York, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will be able to volunteer to take three Covid-19 tests as part of the trial program: one at-home test before departure, one upon arrival at London Heathrow and a third test, shipped to the traveler after arrival.

Oneworld, which is funded by member airlines including American Airlines and British Airways, will cover the costs of the tests.

Airlines are urging regulators to consider accepting negative coronavirus tests as an alternative to travel bans or quarantine requirements that have driven down air travel this year. In the past few weeks, several airlines launched Covid-19 testing programs to help drum up demand.

For example, United Airlines on Monday started offering preflight coronavirus tests for passengers on a Newark-London Heathrow flight. And American offers preflight tests for St. Lucia, Grenada, and Belize-bound travelers to meet local entry requirements.

Rob Gurney, CEO of the Oneworld alliance, said while the carriers are trying out a three-test system, ultimately, they would like a single negative Covid test to serve "as an alternative for customers having to go into a quarantine environment."

While such tests could eventually help travelers get around quarantines or travel bans, travelers will also weigh restrictions on certain activities once they arrive and the numbers of cases at their destination, said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel-industry consulting firm.

"We don't travel to sit around at airports and on airplanes," he said.

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