Virgin Atlantic To Test All Passengers On Select Barbados Flights

Virgin Atlantic is set to launch a new testing trail on its route to Barbados, Antigua, and Grenada. The trial will see all passengers on select flights taking a rapid pre-flight COVID-19 test for six weeks beginning on December 9th.

Virgin Atlantic, COVID-19 Testing, Barbados
Virgin Atlantic will start a new COVID-19 testing trial on selected flights to Barbados and onwards. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Around the world, travel largely remains at a standstill as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The government imposed travel restrictions in place are putting a lot of passengers off of traveling. However, there is hope that testing could one day be an alternative to quarantine. Indeed, Virgin Atlantic’s partner Delta is launching quarantine free flights to Italy next month.

Virgin’s testing trial

Virgin Atlantic is joining many other airlines in offering a COVID-19 testing trial on transatlantic flights. However, while other airlines are targeting flights between the USA and London, Virgin Atlantic takes a different approach. Its test is being run on the route from London to the Caribbean.

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VS186 on December 9th will be the first to take part in Virgin’s testing trial. On this flight, all passengers will need to take a free rapid COVID-19 test before boarding. It goes without saying that the result must be negative. The test will be carried out at the Heathrow Terminal 2 pre-departure testing facility opened in October. It would typically cost passengers £80 for these tests, meaning Virgin is giving a good deal as they will be free for these passengers.

Virgin Atlantic, COVID-19 Testing, Barbados
The trial will last for six weeks, and will hopefully feed into government policy. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Commenting on the test, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said,

“The new UK test to release scheme is a vital first step in re-opening the skies, but we must now move rapidly towards a single test pre-departure regime… Our Heathrow-Barbados testing trial… will gather vital data on the efficacy of a pre-departure testing regime to safely replace quarantine. We hope that testing will also lead the way for US borders to open to UK travelers.”

What does Virgin hope to achieve with the trial?

The trial will hopefully catch those who may board a flight with COVID-19 without symptoms. However, that’s not the main objective of the testing. Instead, the airline hopes that its results can be fed into those being used to implement the UK’s quarantine policy. From mid-December, those entering the UK from a risk country will be able to cut quarantine down to just five days with a negative COVID-19 test.

United Kingdom, Stansted, Quarantine
Passengers arriving in the UK from high-risk countries currently have to quarantine. Photo: Heathrow Airport

Airlines, however, are keen to seek out a solution that allows passengers to travel without any quarantine. While sweeping quarantines remain, it will be hard for the industry to make any real recovery attempts. Delta Air Lines yesterday announced a pilot project with Italy that will see passengers avoiding quarantine with three COVID-19 tests.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic’s COVID-19 testing plan? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!