New Covid test requirements for U.K.-U.S. flights

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STARTING DEC. 24, DELTA AND ITS JOINT VENTURE PARTNER VIRGIN ATLANTIC WILL REQUIRE U.K.-U.S. FLYERS TO SHOW PROOF OF A NEGATIVE COVID TEST PRIOR TO DEPARTURE.

Delta and joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic will require all customers flying to the U.S. from the U.K. to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to departure.

In addition, British Airways began on Tuesday to require pre-departure testing on flights from the U.K. to New York.

The moves came at the behest of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who asked the carriers to institute such rules due to the emergence of a new, more infectious, strain of the virus in the U.K. — a development that has prompted dozens of countries to suspend all flights from Great Britain. Suspensions were put in effect for as little as 48 hours in some cases, but through the new year and longer in other cases.

Delta Boston [Credit: QualityHD/Shutterstock.com]
Pre-departure testing is being implemented

The U.S. has not implemented such an outright ban, although the federal travel ban on travelers from the U.K. that began in March remains in effect. That ban has exceptions, including dual citizens, ex-pats, and essential workers.

In statements, Delta and Virgin Atlantic said their new testing requirement will take effect on Dec. 24. All customers flying from the U.K. to the U.S. will be required to take a PCR or LAMP molecular test within 72 hours of the flight. The less accurate rapid antigen tests will not be accepted. The airlines said they will contact customers to provide more information on testing requirements and recommended test suppliers. 

British Airways will also require a PCR or LAMP test within 72 hours of departure. The testing requirement will apply only to its London-JFK service. The carrier is also currently flying to nine other U.S. markets, according to Cirium data.

United and American, which are currently the two other airlines serving the U.S. from the U.K., said they aren’t instituting a testing requirement for travelers from the country, at least for now. Neither carrier is serving New York state from London, though United does count London to nearby Newark among four current U.K. routes.

“If testing becomes mandatory for service from [London Heathrow] we will be ready to comply and support enforcement. Testing would be up to the customer, and we would be prepared to implement document checking and verification as we have for many other destinations requiring negative tests prior to arrival,” United said in a statement.

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