United Airlines first Covid free flight from New York to London

First ‘Covid-free’ transatlantic flight lands at Heathrow after United Airlines passengers are swabbed at Newark airport in New York – with one who tested positive forced to stay behind

  • 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
  • Anyone over the age of two must have test in United converted business lounge

The first Covid-free transatlantic flight has landed in London after all passengers and crew were tested before boarding.

The United Airlines flight from New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport landed at Heathrow just before 7am this morning, but all 36 passengers must still self-isolate for 14 days despite testing negative. 

One passenger tested positive after taking the rapid Abbott ID Now COVID-19 test before boarding, and was forced to remain in New York.

The United Airlines’ service will run for the next month in the hope that the UK and US will axe quarantine rules for people using it.

Anyone over the age of two must have a test in one of United’s converted business lounges to board the plane – and if someone refuses or tests positive they are stopped from flying and rebooked. 

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. 

Anyone over the age of two must have a test in one of United’s converted business lounges to board the plane 

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

United customers arriving today on flight UA14 from Newark Liberty International Airport to London Heathrow were the first to experience the airline’s free transatlantic COVID-19 testing pilot programme

The United Airlines’ service will run for the next month in the hope that the UK and US will axe quarantine rules for people using it. Pictured, one of the passengers today 

The airline provided rapid tests to every passenger over two years old and all crew members on board, free of charge, guaranteeing everyone on the flight tested negative prior to departure

At the moment, 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.

The rapid Abbott ID Now COVID-19 test – administered by Premise Health – was offered onsite at a testing facility, located at the Newark United Club near Gate C93. 

The test will continue to be used with passengers traveling on United Flight 14, departing at 7.15pm, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the next four weeks. 

Customers booking these flights will have the option to confirm their willingness to participate in the trial or be accommodated on another flight. 

Customers who opt-in will receive information prior to travel in order to schedule a testing appointment at least three hours before their flight departs. All customers are still subject to current UK entry requirements, including the 14-day quarantine rule. 

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. 

Passengers staying in UK will still be obliged to self-isolate for 14 days in accordance with normal quarantine regulations

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

Customers booking these flights will have the option to confirm their willingness to participate in the trial or be accommodated on another flight

The rapid Abbott ID Now COVID-19 test – administered by Premise Health – was offered onsite at a testing facility, located at the Newark United Club near Gate C93

All customers are still subject to current UK entry requirements, including the 14-day quarantine rule

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 also 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.

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.

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

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

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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