Virgin Atlantic Rolls Out Airport COVID-19 Testing For Crew

Virgin Atlantic is looking to roll out COVID-19 testing for its crew. The testing would take place at the airports before embarking on the aircraft, further ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all individuals onboard the airline’s flights.

Virgin Atlantic, COVID-19, Crew Tests
Virgin Atlantic has begun testing staff before flights. Photo: Getty Images

Rapid COVID-19 testing has been seen by many airlines as a tool to open up borders to those who may not currently be able to travel. The idea is, by proving that a passenger doesn’t have COVID-19, destination countries can have confidence that they are not importing the virus. However, airlines are now also looking towards testing crews for their safety and wellbeing.

Virgin’s new scheme

Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline within the United Kingdom to start testing its cabin crew and pilots for COVID-19 before leaving their base. The testing trial is currently only in place for Heathrow Airport staff. Since September 30th, the airline had been testing its staff flying to Shanghai and Hong Kong. It is looking to add Barbados later this month. Virgin aims to test all of its staff operating flights at least once per month.

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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.”

Virgin Atlantic, Summer 2021, Schedule
The airline hopes to roll out tests to all flying crew once a month. Photo: Getty Images

How does it work?

Virgin Atlantic has partnered with GeneMe UK to test its crew. The airline uses the FRANKD test, which is 97% sensitive to detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind the current global pandemic. A swab is taken from the crew member in question on site.

However, unlike some other tests, it doesn’t need to be sent to a lab. Within 30 minutes, the test result is ready and is transmitted to an app accessible by the individual. This means that the test is fast, secure, and paperless. As the test doesn’t require to be sent to a lab, it doesn’t compete with the NHS for resources according to the airline.

Lufthansa, COVID-19, Testing
Unlike most tests, Virgin’s don’t need to be sent to a lab. Photo: Lufthansa

What about passenger testing?

Over the past months, airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, have been vocal about calling for the United Kingdom government to accept COVID-19 testing of passengers as a valid exemption to 14-days of quarantine. While no movement has taken place yet, the UK government is expected to announce an airport testing strategy this week.

Carriers flying to Heathrow wouldn’t need to provide passengers with tests as the airport is already prepared. London’s busiest airport has already been investing time and money in preparing its own COVID-19 test centers for arrivals. This is something that Frankfurt Airport has been offering since mid-summer.

What do you make of Virgin’s crew testing strategy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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