Pre-Departure testing for international passenger arrivals to England effective from 04:00 on Friday 15 January

Late last evening the Aviation Minister, Robert Courts MP, made a written Ministerial Statement confirming the implementation of Pre-Departure testing for international passenger arrivals to England effective from 04:00 on Friday 15 January.


The legislation is part of the International Travel Regulations (valid until 07 June) and must be reviewed every 28 days. The first review period will therefore take place in time for the end of the lockdown period. It is expected that the Devolved Nations will align with the legislation for England for a consistent UK approach.


The Ministerial statement in full is on this link


In the interests of urgency, we note some details from a briefing below as we await the full Guidance Notes expected later this morning.


The following BAR UK observations from the briefing are:


  1. Application: A negative COVID test taken within 3 days prior to departure to the UK applies to all adult passenger arrivals except from the Common Travel Area (CTA). Children under 11 years and under exempted. Very limited other exemptions apply.

    We understand the legislation is being drafted as 3 days but guidance may also refer to 72 hours. It was felt 3 days is easier to calculate across time zones and that some testing centres do not time stamp. Details in Guidance.
  2. Country exemptions: A list of overseas territories/countries where the DfT has evidence that a test cannot be readily accessed will be maintained online: Currently just St Helena, Ascension Island and the Falklands.

Additionally, a limited time window extension until 04.00 Thursday 21 January for Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia and Barbados.


    1. Testing standard: Test must be of a diagnostic-standard test such as a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, and could in some cases include LAMP and Lateral Flow tests within set limits. This will be detailed in the Guidance.


    1. Test certificate: The test certificate will be available in English, French and Spanish from the outset. Overseas providers can utilise their own certificate provided it encompasses all the UK required data fields. Evidence of certificate can be via hard copy or digital means. Details in the Guidance.


    1. UK Transit passengers: Passengers in transit over the UK are included and therefore must present a negative test certificate and complete the PLF. We will continue to seek a review on transit requirements based on evidence.


    1. Transit en-route: Passenger transiting via a hub to the UK apply the 3 days (72 hours?) from departure of the final flight sector into the UK. There could be some cases where ‘reasonable excuse’ could be applied for multiple sector very long duration journeys to the UK. Passengers stopping over would normally require a new test certificate at the stopover destination if the 3 days (72 hours?) will expire. We await details of how transit via the CTA will be managed.  We welcome evidence of overseas experience and passenger flows regarding Transit that could be incorporated in the first policy review.


    1. PLF update: A minor update will be made to the PLF requesting confirmation that the passenger is aware of the requirement for a negative COVID test certificate and include the relevant links.


    1. Flight Crew Exemption: Ministers recognised the importance of flight crew exemptions. Full details will be published in the Guidance.


    1. Compliance penalties: Passengers face a £500 penalty for non-compliance if they arrive in the UK with no test certificate. Airlines should refuse boarding to any passenger not holding a negative COVID test certificate issued within 3 days (72 hours?) of scheduled departure time of immediate flight sector into the UK. The CAA will be responsible for carrier enforcement and a carrier penalty per passenger carried to the UK who is non-compliant will be applied (amount TBC). Paul Smith at the CAA recognises the significant challenge to airlines, particularly in the early stages, and we would expect leniency. BAR UK and other trade bodies have pushed back hard on the principle of carrier penalties.


    1. Denied Boarding: The CAA to issue separate guidance advising carrier exemption from passenger compensation under EC261/2004 where a passenger does not meet UK health requirement legislation.


    1. Delays and Diversions: The legislation will allow for ‘reasonable excuse’ that will accommodate and instances of delay of diversion of flights.


    1. Passengers who test positive: It is recognized that passengers who test positive and can therefore not travel will be subject to the local requirements in the country where they are located. In most instances they should make their own arrangements for isolation or treatment. Certain conditions of carriage or package travel situations may include some provisions.


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