LONDON, England – Virgin Atlantic has announced that it is the first UK airline to introduce COVID-19 pre-flight testing at its Heathrow base for its cabin crew and pilots. Launched on September 30 on flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong, the airline plans to extend the trial to Barbados and select services later in October, before a wider roll out to test every operating crew at least once per month.
In partnership with GeneMe UK, official distributor of the FRANKD test, the airline trial is offering crew and pilots a rapid Point of Care COVID-19 RT LAMP test. In independent laboratory tests, FRANKD is shown to be 100 percent specific and 97 percent sensitive to detecting SARS-CoV-2. Through integration with the digital ID platform Yoti, the test process is fast, secure, paperless and does not require a lab. After a swab is taken on-site, results are processed and delivered on the Yoti app within 30 minutes.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic commented: “The introduction of on-site pre-flight COVID-19 testing for our crew and pilots ensures we remain at the forefront of the aviation industry’s safe return to the skies. As testing technology and COVID-19 requirements around the world develop, we want to utilise technology that is relevant, accurate and available to keep our teams and customers healthy and safe. While the COVID-19 testing landscape evolves, we continue to be in discussions with multiple providers offering different technologies to guarantee the best solution possible, while absolutely ensuring that we do not compete with the NHS for vital resources.
“This trial is a first step in our phased plan to introduce regular testing for all of our teams in the air and on the ground, in order to instil confidence in flying. However, we continue to call for the swift introduction of a wider coordinated passenger testing regime. We need urgent action from UK and US governments to introduce pre-departure testing, to remove the need for quarantine and to minimise travel restrictions, while protecting public health and half a million UK jobs associated with the sector. As long as the UK’s 14-day quarantine is in place, demand for travel will not return and the UK’s economic recovery, which relies on free-flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off.”
The health and safety of customers and crew remains Virgin Atlantic’s number one priority, with the testing trial forming part of extensive measures already in place to ensure our customers fly safe and fly well. The airline has introduced meticulous cleaning measures, disinfecting the aircraft before each flight, using hospital grade, registered disinfecting product, tested to be highly effective against viruses as well as fogging (electrostatic spraying) of high-grade disinfectant in all our cabins before every flight.
All air on board is filtered through highly effective High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that remove dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses and other particles from cabin air (testing shows a removal efficiency of 99.999 percent), with vertical airflow, refreshing cabin air completely every 2-3 minutes. Individual Health Packs are given to all customers travelling for all customers, containing medical-grade face masks, hand sanitizer and surface wipes. While the onboard service is adjusted, customers can expect an excellent experience in all cabins.
For pre-flight peace of mind, Virgin Atlantic has also introduced complimentary COVID-19 global insurance cover for all bookings. The cover will apply to all existing and new bookings, travelling from August 24, 2020 up until March 31, 2021. The insurance policy with Allianz Assistance offers comprehensive cover in the event that a Virgin Atlantic customer or travel companion becomes ill with COVID-19 while on a trip.