Virgin Atlantic introduces on site pre-flight Covid-19 testing trial for crew

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  • The airline is the first in UK to introduce a rapid point of care pre-flight Covid-19 testing trial for cabin crew and pilots, taking every precaution to protect the health of its customers and people 
  • Airline will ensure that the testing programme complements NHS Lighthouse Lab-based testing and does not compete for, nor divert, vital gold standard NHS testing resources 
  • Airline continues call for UK and US governments to introduce a pre departure testing solution to remove quarantine and minimise travel restrictions, in order to open up the skies, support economic recovery and protect 500,000 UK jobs reliant on travel and tourism 

Virgin Atlantic has announced that it is the first UK airline to introduce Covid-19 pre-flight testing at its Heathrow base for its cabin crew and pilots. Launched on the 30th September on flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong, the airline plans to extend the trial to Barbados and select services later in October, before a wider roll out to test every operating crew at least once per month.  

In partnership with GeneMe UK, official distributor of the FRANKD test, the airline trial is offering crew and pilots a rapid Point of Care Covid-19 RT LAMP test. In independent laboratory tests, FRANKD is shown to be 100% specific and 97% sensitive to detecting SARS-CoV-2. Through integration with the digital ID platform Yoti, the test process is fast, secure, paperless and does not require a lab. After a swab is taken on site, results are processed and delivered on the Yoti app within 30 minutes.  

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic commented: “The introduction of on site pre-flight Covid-19 testing for our crew and pilots ensures we remain at the forefront of the aviation industry’s safe return to the skies. As testing technology and Covid-19 requirements around the world develop, we want to utilise technology that is relevant, accurate and available to keep our teams and customers healthy and safe. While the Covid-19 testing landscape evolves, we continue to be in discussions with multiple providers offering different technologies to guarantee the best solution possible, while absolutely ensuring that we do not compete with the NHS for vital resources. 

“This trial is a first step in our phased plan to introduce regular testing for all of our teams in the air and on the ground, in order to instil confidence in flying. However, we continue to call for the swift introduction of a wider coordinated passenger testing regime. We need urgent action from UK and US governments to introduce pre departure testing, to remove the need for quarantine and to minimise travel restrictions, while protecting public health and half a million UK jobs associated with the sector. As long as the UK’s 14 day quarantine is in place, demand for travel will not return and the UK’s economic recovery, which relies on free flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off.”  

The health and safety of customers and crew remains Virgin Atlantic’s number one priority, with the testing trial forming part of extensive measures already in place to ensure our customers fly safe and fly well. The airline has introduced meticulous cleaning measures, disinfecting the aircraft before each flight, using hospital grade, registered disinfecting product, tested to be highly effective against viruses as well as fogging (electrostatic spraying) of high-grade disinfectant in all our cabins before every flight.   All air on board is filtered through highly effective High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that remove dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses and other particles from cabin air (testing shows a removal efficiency of 99.999%), with vertical air flow, refreshing cabin air completely every 2-3 minutes.  Individual Health Packs are given to all customers travelling for all customers, containing medical grade face masks, hand sanitizer and surface wipes. While the on board service is adjusted, customers can expect an excellent experience in all cabins. For pre-flight peace of mind, Virgin Atlantic has also introduced complimentary Covid-19 global insurance cover for all bookings. The cover will apply to all existing and new bookings, travelling from 24 August 2020 up until 31 March 2021. The insurance policy with Allianz Assistance offers comprehensive cover in the event that a Virgin Atlantic customer or travel companion becomes ill with COVID-19 while on a trip. 

ENDS  

For further press information please contact the Virgin Atlantic press office on press.office@fly.virgin.com or call 01293 747373.    

Notes to editors:    

About Virgin Atlantic    

Virgin Atlantic was founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson 36 years ago with innovation and customer service at its core. In 2019, Virgin Atlantic carried 5.4 million customers and was voted Britain’s only Global Five Star Airline by APEX for the third year running in the Official Airline Ratings. Headquartered in London, Virgin Atlantic and its holiday business, Virgin Atlantic Holidays, employs 6,500 people worldwide, serving 27 destinations across four continents. Sustainability remains central to the airline and in September 2019, Virgin Atlantic took delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft – helping to transform the fleet into one of the quietest and most fuel efficient in the sky. By 2022, the airline will operate a streamlined fleet of 37 twin engine aircraft following the retirement of its 747s and A332s, and its simplified fleet will be 10% more efficient than before the Covid-19 crisis. On 4 September 2020, Virgin Atlantic completed the £1.2bn private-only solvent recapitalisation of the airline and holiday business, following the impact of the pandemic on the global economy. 

Alongside shareholder and Joint Venture partner Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic operates a leading transatlantic network between the UK and US with onward connections to over 200 US and international cities. On May 15, 2018 Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Limited signed definitive agreements to combine the existing trans-Atlantic joint ventures. The expanded joint venture offers a comprehensive route network, convenient flight schedules, competitive fares and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including the ability to earn and redeem miles across all carriers.     

For more information visit www.virginatlantic.com or www.virginholidays.co.uk  or via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @virginatlantic  @virginholidays   

Virgin Atlantic continues to adhere to and often exceed the guidance and regulation of the different authorities involved, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Public Health England (PHE) Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Virgin Atlantic are implementing and continually reviewing the following health and safety measures in response to Covid-19:    

Complimentary Covid-19 cover 

  • To support customers and provide additional peace of mind, Virgin Atlantic has introduced Virgin Atlantic COVID-19 Cover, which will apply to all existing and new bookings, travelling from 24 August 2020 up until 31 March 2021. 
  • The insurance policy with Allianz Assistance offers comprehensive cover in the event that a Virgin Atlantic customer or travel companion becomes ill with COVID-19 while on a trip. 
  • Emergency medical costs, associated expenses such as transport and accommodation and repatriation up to £500,000 are included, as well as costs if a customer is denied boarding or held in quarantine. 

At Airports    

  • Proactive health screening (via pre-flight online questionnaire and in-person verbal interviews) for all our customers and denying boarding if any questions are answered positively.     
  • Encouraging customers to use hand sanitizer stations at the check in and gate area     
  • Advocating for the use of temperature checks to be administered upon arrival at any departure airport, in place at Heathrow.    
  • Adhering to social distancing measures at check in and boarding gates to limit the number of customers in queues to avoid crowding.    
  • Encouraging customers to check in online. All airport check in areas and surfaces will be cleaned regularly with high-grade products, tested to be effective against viruses.    
  • Working closely with our colleagues at the airports to ensure customers are safe as they pass through security. Security trays will be wiped after use, security teams will be wearing masks and customers can expect reduced lanes in this area to ensure social distancing.    
  • All the seating and gate area around boarding will be sanitised to a high standard to offer customers peace of mind as they wait to board their flight.    
  • Boarding will be limited to small groups of customers at a time, starting from the back of the aircraft to minimise contact between customers.    
  • On boarding, all customers will be asked to scan their own boarding pass and hold up their passport for inspection to minimize contact.     
  • All of our people will be wearing face masks when in close contact with our customers.     

Onboard    

  • Where possible, ensuring our customers have space onboard. Some seats will not be available and they will be marked with special pillows.     
  • All customers will receive a Health Pack – a PPE kit with three medical grade masks, surface wipes and hand sanitizer. All customers and our crew will be required to wear their masks for the duration of the flight.    
  • Some onboard items will be temporarily removed including Vera, our inflight magazine and our retail therapy service, to minimize contact between customers. Customers can still use our pre-order service from our great range of products in advance of their flight.    
  • We are offering a tasty boxed hot food service in Economy and Premium, enclosed from preparation in a Covid-safe, monitored environment directly to our customers’ seats. Upper Class customers will receive a choice of three hot meals, desserts, including cheese & biscuits, which will be delivered to their seat on a tray.    
  • Bar service, with a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and a selection of snacks will be offered in all cabins.     
  • Meticulous cleaning measures have been put in place, disinfecting the aircraft before each flight, using hospital grade, registered disinfecting product, tested to be highly effective against viruses.     
  • Fogging (electrostatic spraying) of high-grade disinfectant in all our cabins before every flight.     
  • Dedicated isolation areas in place on each flight for any customers or crew who may potentially present symptoms onboard.    
  • All air on board filtered through highly effective High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that remove dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses and other particles from cabin air (testing shows a removal efficiency of 99.999%), with vertical air flow, refreshing cabin air completely every 2-3 minutes.     

 
About GeneMe UK 

GeneMe UK is the official distributor of the FRANKD test. FRANKD is produced by GeneMe Sp. z o.o. a leading biotech company, specialised in genetic testing, based in Poland. GeneMe has declared conformity with EC Directive 98/79/EC on in vitro diagnostic medical devices for the FRANKD test as of May 2020, and is approved for sale across the EU and UK.  

GeneMe Sp. z o.o. has developed over 30 commercial methods for the detection of gene polymorphisms responsible for dietary conditions and diseases’ predispositions. All kits are based on direct virus RNA detection in a sample. 

The GeneMe FRANKD test has been independently validated with 97% Sensitivity and 100% Specificity by the DiMedical Centre for Clinical Medicine, Łódź, Poland. GeneMe uses a special patented enzyme for virus detection.  

FRANKD – stands for Fast, Reliable, Accurate, Nucleic acid based Kit for Covid-19 Detection and available in a Kit form that can be used onsite Daily. FRANKD carries the European CE regulatory certification mark. 

 Contact: Rupert Graves – frankd@geneme.uk  or visit www.geneme.uk

About Yoti 

The FRANKD test uses Yoti to make the capture and sharing of results simpler, faster and secure. With over 8 million downloads, Yoti is an award-winning digital identity app that helps people verify and share personal details while protecting their privacy. People link their identity to a FRANKD test by scanning a unique QR code that is attached to each test. Once the test is complete, the result appears on their Yoti and can be shared online and in person, in seconds.  

Anti-fraud measures are built into Yoti’s reusable digital ID, making it a modern solution that combats document and ID fraud. Yoti is available in 6 languages, accepts passports and photo IDs from over 195 countries, making it a global identity solution that supports seamless travel experiences. It is trusted by organisations including the NHS, which uses Yoti to issue digital ID cards to staff with the app. For more information contact: Mark.hindle@yoti.com or visit www.yoti.com.  

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