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Three Airlines to Require Pre-Departure Tests on UK-US Flights

To contain new UK virus strain, New York calls on US-bound passengers on British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic to have negative results

December 22, 2020

Last week, scientists in the United Kingdom identified a new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus which has been blamed for rising COVID-19 cases in the southeast of England. As the UK the struggles to contain the new outbreak, New York has called on airlines serving the state to require passengers arriving from the UK to test negative for COVID-19 prior to departure.

Countries across the EU, including France, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain Italy, Belgium and the Irish Republic, along with Turkey and Canada, have temporarily closed their borders to UK arrivals. A further 120 countries are requiring travelers from the UK to have negative COVID-19 test results before boarding flights.

Adding to the list, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked major air carriers serving the state to require passengers traveling from the UK to test negative for coronavirus before departure. So far three airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic, have announced they will implement the tests.

The test must be administered 72 hours prior to departure, and the results must be negative before a passenger will be allowed to fly. British Airways reportedly will begin its testing policy Dec. 22, while Delta will begin Dec. 24.

In a statement, Delta said, “Customers will be required to take a LAMP or PCR test up to 72 hours prior to departure,” in addition to mask wearing and other safety measures already in place.

Delta indicated it would also be requiring the pre-flight test results for passengers on its London-Atlanta service, and Virgin said negative test results “for all customers travelling from London to the United States from Thursday 24 December,” according to reports from

As the new strain of the virus swept through the southeast of England, countries in the EU instituted temporary bans on travel from the UK, beginning with the the Netherlands, where the ban is in place “until Jan. 1 at the latest.”

Italy has banned flights arriving from the UK until Jan. 6, and other European countries which have already or are set to implement temporary travel bans from the UK include German, Switzerland, Austria, the Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria.

Turkish Airlines has suspended flights to and from the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and South Africa and Canada suspended passenger flights from the UK for 72 hours beginning Monday.

The BBC reports the European Commission recommended Tuesday that its member states allow people to travel to their country of residence providing they take a Covid-19 test or self-isolate. The recommendations also said that transport workers, such as truck drivers, should be exempt from the travel restrictions and mandatory testing, but non-essential travel should continue to be discouraged.

The recommendations will be put before EU ambassadors, but member states are free to set their own rules on border controls and seem likely continue with their own policies.,,