British Airways, American Airlines Launch COVID-19 Testing Pilot Program for Flights From the U.S. To London

Passengers heading out of Dallas, New York, or Los Angeles will be able to participate.

British Airways and American Airlines will now allow passengers to be tested for COVID-19 on several flights from the U.S. to London as part of a pilot program starting later this month.

The tests, which will be free starting Nov. 25, will be offered to eligible customers booked on specific American Airlines flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to London Heathrow, as well as certain British Airways flights from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport to London, according to the airlines. In the future, American Airlines expects to expand the program on one of its flights from New York’s JFK to London.

To participate, eligible American and British Airways passengers will be contacted and given the chance to volunteer. They will take three tests: an at-home RT-PCR test taken 72 hours before departure from the U.S. under the supervision of a virtual doctor’s visit; a second test at the airport upon landing in London (one of several airports that offer on-site COVID-19 testing); and then a third, at-home saliva test three days after their arrival.

The trial follows the launch of a similar testing pilot program on United Airlines, which kicked off on Monday on flights from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to London. However, the United program is mandatory for all passengers on that flight while American and British Airways have made their testing optional.

British Airways plane
Nick Morrish/British Airways

"The UK is a critically important business and leisure destination that our customers want to visit,” Chairman and Chief Executive of American Airlines Doug Parker said in a statement. “We believe the results provided by this trial will be vital for reopening transatlantic travel safely."

Currently, Americans are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the UK, according to the government.

American Airlines already offers pre-flight testing for flights to Hawaii, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Costa Rica, and this week expanded its at-home testing program for flights to Belize, Grenada, and St. Lucia.

Several other airlines -- including United and Hawaiian Airlines -- have also introduced pre-flight testing for travelers headed to Hawaii in an effort to help visitors skip the state’s mandatory quarantine.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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