By Alex Ledsom, forbes
Virgin Atlantic stated that is it now the first airline to conduct Covid-19 testing at the departure gates.
The tests are currently being conducted with pilots and cabin crew when they arrive to board their planes–test results take 30 minutes to come through to give the all clear, so they can get on the aircraft.
The test is called FRANKD and it is a partnership with GeneMe. In laboratory testing, FRANKD was shown to be 100% specific and 97% sensitive to detecting SARS-COV-2.
Crucially, the system uses a digital ID platform Yoti, to offer a paperless test that doesn’t require a laboratory to receive results. Virgin Atlantic crew are swabbed at the airport and processed through the Yoti application within half an hour.
This is an extension of London’s Heathrow’s successful trials of FRANKD tests on several airline crews during August.
Virgin Atlantic used the Shanghai to Hong Kong route to trial the FRANKD Covid-19 tests, starting 30 September. Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer of Virgin Atlantic claimed it as “a first step in our phased plan for testing all of our teams in the air and on the ground, in order to instil confidence in flying.”
Clearly, if all goes well, the airline will roll out the testing to other routes as soon as possible.
The company hopes that it will pave the way to convince the U.K. and U.S. governments to introduce pre-departure testing, particularly when evidence is starting to show that current travel bans appear to be ineffective.
There are increasing calls for governments to introduce fast airport testing as a way to allow the aviation and tourism industry to recover from the impact of the pandemic–the U.K. government launched a task force to examine how best to restart travel on 7 Oct, as reported by The Financial Times.
Koster added that “as long as the U.K.’s 14-day quarantine is in place, demand for travel will not return and the U.K.’s economic recovery, which relies on free flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off.”