In preparation for a flight to Finland, Globetrender tries out the Sofitel Heathrow T5 ‘Test and Rest’ package, which combines a Covid test with an overnight airport hotel stay. Jenny Southan reports
Back in October 2020, Arora Hotels, which operates the Sofitel Heathrow, partnered with UK-based biotech start-up Halo to provide guests with self-administered saliva-based PCR Covid-19 test kits, with results delivered in time for check-out in the morning.
I had been invited as a journalist on a press trip to Finland but was required to show a negative Covid result (no older than 72 hours) on arrival in the country.
With Finnair flight departing from London Heathrow airport at 1020, the ideal solution seemed to be paying for an overnight stay at the Sofitel London Heathrow – Terminal 5 hotel, where its new “Test and Rest” package included a Covid test and digital health certificate in time for departure.
I would need to check in at Terminal 2 (a train ride away) by 0830 so would need to leave the hotel at about 0745. Would the results come in time and how did the testing process work?
I arrived at the hotel in the early evening (the building was quiet and empty). At reception, I was checked in and given a test kit to take up to my room. I was briefed on how to use it and told to download the Halo app to my phone. I was also told I would need to submit my sample by 7pm for it to be processed by the morning.Once up in my room, I made sure not to eat or drink anything for 30 minutes before doing the test. I then registered my details on the app, scanned my test kit, spat in the test tube provided (much less of an ordeal than having a throat/nasal swab), labelled the tube and placed it in the bio-secure packaging provided.
I then went back down to reception and handed them the kit, which they delivered to Halo’s nearby laboratory, where it is tested “using some of the most accurate PCR protocols in the world” (according to a press statement).
The next morning, I checked the Halo app on my phone and saw that my result had come through and I was indeed negative for Covid-19. The app stores multiple test results (handy if you fly regularly) and had a downloadable certificate to show the relevant authorities.
I was really impressed with the service, despite being very anxious that my result wouldn’t appear in time for me to catch my flight. Everything worked seamlessly. What was ironic was that when I arrived at immigration in Helsinki, they didn’t even ask to see my results.
“Test and Rest” package prices at Sofitel London Heathrow start from £179 at weekends or £199 mid-week and include accommodation and testing, which is excellent value, given you can easily pay £150-£250 for a private Covid test. Additional tests can be added to the package for other guests at £60 per person.
As we previously reported, Rocco Forte Hotels are also offering Covid testing ahead of their trips at a discounted price of £129 per test, while RoomMate supplies free antigen rapid Covid tests to guests.
In the future, Globetrender predicts that Covid tests will become so much part of daily life that they will be available at all hotels – they might even be stocked in rooms, alongside crisps, adaptors and other handy amenities.