Airport vaccination status trial is a success

A Virgin Atlantic customer checking in at London Heathrow's Terminal 3
Virgin Atlantic
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
28 July 2021

A trial run by Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Heathrow Airport has shown that travellers' vaccination status can be easily confirmed to support a safe reopening of the skies.

The results come as the UK government confirms that fully vaccinated travellers from the US and EU will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival in the UK from 4am BST on Monday 2 August 2021. Using a selection of US, Caribbean and European routes, the trial proved that airlines and airports can easily check a wider range of recognised vaccination statuses for different nationalities – in both paper and digital format – at the point of departure and away from the UK Border, ensuring no further pressure in immigration halls. Verification checks ensured 99% of credentials were authentic – with the remaining 1% successfully denied where documentation requirements were not met.

As part of the 10-day trial, fully vaccinated customers on selected flights from Los Angeles, New York, Montego Bay and Athens agreed to share their vaccination status at their departure airport, showing the industry is ready to rapidly adapt and operationalise further vaccination checks, to support a safe reopening of the skies at scale. 

A woman showing a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member her phone with Virgin Atlantic FlyReady
Virgin Atlantic

Internationally recognised vaccination credentials including CDC cards, New York’s Excelsior Pass and the EU Digital Covid Credential were among the most popular vaccination credentials used by the 250 customers who participated in the trial, alongside NHS certificates.

Customers in the trial presented a combination of digital or paper-based vaccine credentials for validation, which British Airways customers verified digitally through the VeriFLY app, while Virgin Atlantic customers used a digital uploader tool developed in partnership with Delta Air Lines and backed by TrustAssure™ technology. Digitally pre-verified vaccination statuses were authenticated in minutes, helping to speed up the airport Check-In process, alongside existing checks for a completed Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and valid pre-departure test.

Key Transatlantic routes were handpicked for the trial, recognising the importance of US-UK air links and the urgent need for a Transatlantic corridor to re-start business, reunite families and allow people to go on holiday. In the US, more than 163 million people have been fully vaccinated – including 60% of US adults, while the UK has fully vaccinated more than 37 million people – including 70% of UK adults.

A female member of staff for Virgin Atlantic wearing a face mask speaking to a customer
Virgin Atlantic

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “Following news that fully vaccinated EU and US citizens arriving into the UK will no longer be required to self-isolate, we stand ready to work with Government to ensure new rules are smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the Transatlantic corridor. Recent proof-of-concept trial between Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow and British Airways has demonstrated our readiness to rapidly operationalise an expanded Amber policy, with 99% of customers’ vaccine credentials authenticated at the point of departure.  

“We now urge UK Government to go further and move the US to the UK’s ‘Green list’ and for the Biden administration to repeal the 212F proclamation for UK travellers. The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.” 

Under the UK’s previous rules, travellers arriving from countries on the Amber list needed to have been fully vaccinated as part of the UK’s vaccination programme in order to avoid self-isolation. But this policy excluded travellers who have been vaccinated anywhere else in the world. The government's Covid Operations committee has now made the decision to remove quarantine for people arriving in the UK after 4am BST on 2 August 2021 who have been fully vaccinated in the US or EU.

Image from Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic

Other countries, including France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta have been welcoming fully vaccinated travellers – including US residents – without the need for self-isolation since the beginning of July.

The latest industry data shows that passenger numbers between the US and EU have returned to about a third of pre-pandemic levels. However, the demand between the US and UK remains at only a fifth of pre-pandemic levels. Trade levels also reflect this trend, with trade routes between the EU and the US now recovered to nearly 50% pre-pandemic levels, while the UK remains at just 8%. 

Visit Virgin Atlantic to find out more.