Virgin Partners with Rival BA for Passenger Vaccination Status Trial
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are teaming up to prove to the UK government that they can check a passenger’s vaccination status before travel. Hopefully the trial will support a program to prevent vaccinated passengers from having to self-quarantine upon arrival in the country.
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are generally seen as rivals. Just think of when Richard Brandson requisitioned the Heathrow Concorde model or the airline’s campaign to become a second national carrier. However, it seems that the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” holds true here. While no one is really an enemy here, the two are teaming up to try and help shape future travel policies for their two benefits.
A common trial
Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Heathrow Airport join forces to launch trial for vaccinated travelers. Airlines will invite fully vaccinated travelers on a handful of routes to show their vaccination status to the airline in paper or digital form.
Upon arrival in the UK, these passengers will use a dedicated immigration lane, where their details will likely be verified. As such, the airline will aim to prove that it can carry out checks instead of border control officers. UK Border Force is currently responsible for verifying test results, causing long delays at some airports.
Notably, passengers have nothing to gain from participating in the trial, other than perhaps a slightly faster airport experience. All passengers will still need to follow relevant COVID-19 restrictions on travel, which means quarantine for most.
Stay informed: Register now for our daily and weekly aviation news summaries.
How will it work?
Both airlines will invite selected passengers to participate in the trial. British Airways will focus on passengers departing from Athens and New York, while Virgin Atlantic will target passengers departing from Los Angeles and Montego Bay.
Selected British Airways passengers will be asked to upload their vaccine credentials to the VeriFLY app along with their existing COVID-19 documents. They can show the generated QR code to access a dedicated lane in the immigration hall, where their vaccine data will be verified. British Airways passengers will have access to COVID-19 testing at a reduced cost, although it is unclear how they are accessed.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic will allow passengers flying from Los Angeles to show their documents in person or upload them to a new portal being created with Delta Air Lines. Passengers from Montego Bay can present a paper or digital vaccination certificate.
Shaping the quarantine policy
After the trial begins, airlines hope to share anonymized data with the UK government as soon as possible. They hope this will help shape a policy that allows fully vaccinated people to avoid quarantine upon arrival. Currently UK rules only take into account where you have been in the last ten days regardless of vaccination status.
It differs from many countries, like Germany. When the UK is removed from the Country Variants list, it will move to the High Incidence Zones list. Arrivals to Germany from high-incidence areas must be quarantined for ten days but can leave after five days with a negative COVID-19 test as in England. Unlike England, this can be a free antigen test. Fully vaccinated people do not need to self-quarantine if they upload their vaccination status to a special government portal.
Commenting on the lawsuit, Shei Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said:
“To reap the benefits of the UK’s leading vaccine rollout, the UK government must act now to end self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from ‘orange’ countries, and no later than for national reopening on July 19. “
What do you think of the test? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!