British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are to trial fast-track lanes at Heathrow airport for arrivals who have been fully-vaccinated against Covid-19.

The test programme would see airlines checking the vaccination status of passengers before boarding. The trial comes as the global vaccination drive gathers pace and the aviation industry calls for quarantine-free travel to the UK from lower-risk amber list countries. The scheme is set to be announced this week by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and comes just days after the UK government’s announcement that most lockdown measures in England will be eased from July 19.

Trial due to start this weekend

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said an update on international travel requirements would remove “the need for fully-vaccinated arrivals to isolate when they return from an amber list country.” The trial is due to start this weekend and will allow passengers who are fully vaccinated to travel on selected flights to Heathrow from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York. Passengers on these flights will need to show proof of their vaccination status.

The trial will accept internationally recognised vaccination credentials including the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and the EU digital Covid certificate. It is hoped the programme will pave the way for airlines and airports checking passengers’ vaccine status away from the border. Passengers taking part in the trial will be use a dedicated arrivals lane.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, told the BBC’s Today programme: “At the moment the main barrier to people who have been doubly vaccinated travelling being allowed to do that, is being able to demonstrate to the government that we can check that they’ve had the vaccination already.

“The trial that we’re starting later this week will allow us to demonstrate we can do that safely with 100 per cent checks on double vaccination before people get on the plane.”

UK losing £23m each day from transatlantic corridor restrictions

In a joint statement by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic airline chiefs said the UK had “led the world with its successful vaccine programme”, but added it was “failing to reap the economic and social rewards” of other countries which are accepting fully-vaccinated people without the need to quarantine.

The airlines warned that the UK was losing £23 million each day from the economy while the transatlantic corridor was restricted.

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