Swissport and Collinson worked together to launch pre-departure rapid testing facilities at Heathrow Airport. 

The testing facilities, located in Terminals 2 and 5 of Heathrow in the U.K., will initially offer passengers travelling to Hong Kong the option to fulfil those countries’ pre-departure testing requirements at the airport before they fly. These countries currently require passengers to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure, but allow for testing technologies that can deliver fast results. These tests, including LAMP and Antigen tests, can be administered pre-flight at the airport.

Richard Cawthra, Chief Commercial Officer Swissport Western Europe stated in a press release: “We’re delighted to be working with Collinson to deliver these pre-departure COVID-19 rapid testing facilities at Heathrow Airport. Passengers traveling to countries which require evidence of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure will enjoy a less cumbersome pre-travel procedure. The new facilities will bring some ease to air travel in times of COVID-19 and we are convinced that it will contribute to getting the UK flying again.”

The currently offered tests differ from RT-PCR, which a growing number of countries and territories around the world, including Cyprus, Greece, Bahamas, and Bermuda now require to be shown at check-in. Unlike RT-PCR tests, LAMP and Antigen tests can be processed quickly and without being sent to a laboratory.

Developments in international testing are fast-moving and the Heathrow-based rapid testing sites have the potential to facilitate a wide range of testing methods either pre-departure or on arrival. Pre-departure is one of a number of testing regimes being implemented around the world, and a crucial next step toward keeping the travel industry moving, while limiting the spread of the virus. The testing facilities will initially be open for 4 weeks, monitoring passenger and airline demand.

The new pre-departure facilities will process LAMP tests for departing passengers from October 20, 2020, and will seek to add other tests, including Antigen, as global governments continue to accept a wider variety of testing methods as an alternative to travel restrictions and quarantines.

The private test costs £80 and aims to provide departing passengers with their results in around 60 minutes. Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines all fly routes that now require pre-departure tests, and so it is hoped this facility will ensure a smooth and safe pre-flight experience for these passengers. Passengers will be asked to ensure they book a test ahead of time and will be provided timing guidelines with regard to check-in by their airline.

This announcement follows the launch of Collinson and Swissport’s existing ‘Test-on-Arrival’ facility at Heathrow, that, while made available for use in August, is still yet to gain U.K. Government approval for use. Now that Heathrow has facilities that allow for passengers to be tested either on arrival or prior to departure, the aviation industry is urging the Government’s new Global Travel Taskforce to launch a testing regime that provides a safe alternative to the existing 14-day quarantine.