Pre-Travel Tests Are Sufficient To Spot COVID According To AA

Pre-travel COVID-19 testing is sufficient to catch infected passengers, according to new research released by American Airlines in partnership with British Airways and the oneworld Alliance. The news comes as airlines on both sides of the Atlantic call for travel to become easier between the two continents.

American Airlines, British Airways, Testing
New research released by American Airlines, British Airways, and oneworld shows that pre-travel testing is effective. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

While nobody wants to transport COVID-19 around the world, airlines and governments seem to have different ideas of how to ensure this. While governments are primarily implementing border closures and travel restrictions, airlines are keen to reopen travel with adequate testing. As such, airlines have been commissioning research on the subject.

What does the research show?

According to the new research released by American Airlines, British Airways, and oneworld, testing passengers for COVID-19 effectively catches those infected by COVID-19. The University of Oxford conducted the study. Between November 2020 and March 2021, 600 passengers traveling with the two airlines each took three tests as part of the study. The study observed passengers flying from the US to the UK.

The first test was a PCR test administered 72 hours before departure. This was followed by a rapid test upon arrival at London Heathrow Airport (LHR). Finally, a third PCR test was administered between three and five days after arrival.

American Airlines, British Airways, Testing
600 passengers traveling to the UK on British Airways and American Airlines took part in the study. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Just 1% of those who took the first PCR test generated a positive result. It goes without saying that they didn’t go on to travel. None of the participants in the study tested positive at London Heathrow, and of those who traveled, only 0.4% tested positive on the third day.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Testing needs to be affordable

The researchers at Oxford didn’t just take into account the test results. Participants were also asked a range of questions on their travel experience. Of those surveyed, 99.7% said that they were happy to abide by testing rules when traveling in place of quarantine.

80% of participants would be happy to pay for COVID-19 testing. Most would be prepared to pay $50 or less. Only 15% would be comfortable paying more than $100. It currently costs much more to travel to the United Kingdom. As an amber country, US travelers must take at least three tests to travel to the country.

American Airlines, British Airways, Testing
The study also showed that passengers want more affordable testing options. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Firstly, a pre-departure test must be taken. This can be a rapid antigen test which is often cheaper. A day two and eight testing package must also be bought before travel. These typically start at £120 ($170), with prices rapidly increasing. Travelers can pay extra for a day five test to exit quarantine early.

Commenting on the study, the companies involved said,

“The trial findings underline the important role that testing can play in the safe reopening of international travel, including hugely significant routes between the U.S. and U.K. The affordability of testing is crucial for travelers, and we stand ready… to offer affordable testing options for our customers who would like or need to travel again.”

British Airways’ CEO recently called for the UK government to place the United States of America on its green list.

What do you make of the study’s findings? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!