British Airways will require all passengers travelling to New York to have a pre-departure COVID-19 test following a direct request from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. The request was made as fears grow about a new variant of the novel Coronavirus that was first detected in the UK several weeks ago and which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than previous strains of the potentially deadly virus.
Governor Cuomo also made the same request to Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic but is still waiting for a response from the two airlines. The New York State governor said he would consider “further action” against both Delta and Virgin Atlantic if they didn’t agree to test passengers arriving in New York JFK from the United Kingdom.
“I want to thank British Airways…they were considerate and I appreciate it…they said they will not send flights to JFK with untested passengers,” governor Cuomo said during a news conference on Monday.
The request was made on the same day that BA’s schedules were thrown into a spin as countries around the world barred passenger flights from the UK. Close to 50 countries have now banned passenger flights from Britain in an effort to isolate themselves from the new variant of the Coronavirus which is sweeping across London and the South East of England.
But while three countries have closed their borders completely in response to the threat, the United States is not expected to impose any further restrictions at this time. Since March, however, only U.S. citizens and eligible visa holders have been permitted to travel from the UK to the United States.
On Monday, Governor Cuomo criticized the federal government for not taking a firmer stance on flights arriving from the UK. The reluctance to follow the likes of much of Europe, as well as Hong Kong and India, instead prompted Cuomo to demand mandatory pre-departure testing.
Some reports suggest British Airways could extend pre-departure testing to all U.S.-bound passengers. Details of how the testing process will work have not yet been released, although the airline confirmed in an emailed statement that testing would begin on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for British Airways was not immediately able to say how the testing process would work.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Delta told us: “We are aware of what the Governor has said and will work with his office to understand the exact details the State of New York is seeking with respect to flights from the United Kingdom”.
Virgin Atlantic has also been contacted for comment.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.