From 25-second tests with British Airways to DIY saliva tests through Halo, Covid travel testing is finally getting easier – and cheaper. Olivia Palamountain reports
Many of us know the PCR test drill by now. Laborious, expensive, uncomfortable (thanks to nasal and throat swabs) – and with limited guarantees of timely delivery or results – travel testing is complicated, stressful and costly.
Fortunately for consumers, in the fight to get travellers moving again, airlines, airports and providers have an vested interest in making the process as straightforward and competitive as possible.
So while travel testing is here to stay for the foreseeable, the good news is that medical tech is evolving: testing costs are being driven down and efficacy and seamless availability is on the rise.
Are we entering a new era in travel testing? Globetrender hopes so. Read on for a round-up of the top six UK travel testing initiatives currently on the market.
1. Discounted tests from Easyjet
UK low-cost carrier Easyjet has enhanced its partnership with provider Collinson to offer discounts on pre-departure and arrival PCR testing for travel to “green list” destinations.
Discounted tests start from £32 for a lateral flow antigen test, £66 for a PCR test and £68 for a LAMP test. All the tests are conducted by trained medical practitioners and are UK Government approved.
Testing facilities are located at Easyjet airports across the UK including London Luton, London Gatwick (APH Parking) and Manchester, as well as at the O2 Arena in central London.
New to the service are video consultations with a medical practitioner, designed for inbound UK travellers looking for reassurance while they test themselves pre-return.
Easyjet customers can book their appointment and test kit a minimum of three full working days prior to their UK departure at a discounted price of £32. Results and certificates are sent out via email.
2. British Airways trials 25-second covid tests
British Airways is conducting a trial of an ultra-rapid Covid-19 antigen test from medical tech company Canary Global that promises to display results within 25 seconds.
The first airline in the world with access to the “Pelican Covid-19 test“, results are drawn via a simple saliva test that is able to detect symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2, including variants.
BA flight and cabin crew members are first in line for the trial, the results of which will be compared to the existing tests already in use.
3. Virgin Atlantic x Prenetics return-trip Covid-19 testing bundles
Virgin Atlantic is collaborating with test provider Prenetics to offer customers competitively priced, at-home tests and packages, delivered to their door pre-departure. This move comes in addition to existing testing partnerships, including an online lab locator tool and airport testing.
Booking are taken via the Prenetics portal, Project Screen, which clearly displays all available options. Individual PCR tests start from £55, with results provided via email within 24 hours of receipt at Prenetic’s lab.
Virgin’s “Green” and “Amber” packages, meanwhile, include every test needed for a return trip, based on the UK’s traffic light travel system.
The packages will also include UK government approved arrival packages for Day 2 and/or 8 of self-isolation at home with an option to add a PCR test at day 5 for early release from quarantine (“amber” list only).
A Green list package for travel to and from Israel, for example, costs £152. At present, round-trip bundles are also available for Nigeria and Grenada. As requirements ease, this list will likely expand, says Virgin Atlantic.
Additional tests tailored to specific destinations include PCR and rapid antigen tests, with added flexibility to amend the bundle if the country’s tier changes unexpectedly.
All customers receive a “Fit to Fly” test certificate, that can be presented digitally via Virgin Atlantic’s digital pass or in paper format.
4. Express Test offers £69 Day 2 tests for Heathrow arrivals
Express Test is set to become the main testing provider at London Heathrow airport, opening six test facilities at the airport by August in the areas listed below.
- Terminal 2 Departures
- Terminal 5 Departures
- Terminal 3 Departures
- Terminal 4 Long Stay Car Park
- Terminal 2 Arrivals
- Terminal 5 Arrivals
Travellers arriving into Heathrow from green list destinations will be able to take the mandatory Day 2 PCR test for £69. Tests must be pre-booked and results are said to be guaranteed by 10pm the following day.
Once the partnership has fully rolled out, the airport test sites will be capable of handling 400,000 tests per month.
5. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle partners with Prenetics to offer discounts on Covid-19 tests
“Stress-free travels to Europe” are being promised for Eurotunnel customers thanks to a collaboration with provider Prenetics that is offering discounts on pre-departure and arrival Covid-19 PCR tests.
Travellers can opt for a home test kit available via Prenetics booking platform, Project Screen, or can pop in to one of Prenetics’ 20 “test pod” locations across the UK. Both options return results within 24 hours of receipt at the lab.
The pre-departure PCR “Fit to Travel” home test kits cost £57, and the in-person tests cost £94.05.
France remains on the UK government’s amber list so returning UK travellers are also being offered mandatory Day 2 and Day 8 PCR test packages at a cost of £146.30.
A Day 5 Test to Release kit costs an additional £75.05. An individual in-person PCR test for day two, five or eight costs £94.05 (per test).
6. Halo offers first ever saliva-based Covid tests for Day 2 and Day 8 arrivals
Halo‘s new breakthrough saliva-based Covid tests mitigate the need for uncomfortable nose and throat swabs with a test success rate of more than 99 per cent.
UK government approved and booked via the Halo website, the service costs £89 for the Day 2 test required for arrivals from green list destinations and £178 for the full Day 2 and Day 8 package amber list arrivals.
The price includes a door-to-door courier service (you will need to sign for the packages when they arrive) and 24-hour test analysis from arrival at Halo’s own lab located at Imperial College London.
Results and verification are enabled via webiste and app, plus Halo has a dedicated UK based customer support team operating 24 hours a day seven days a week to help with any queries.