British Airways is to trial the world’s first ultra-rapid COVID-19 antigen test that can produce results in just 25 seconds. The Heathrow-based airline will trial the tests on pilots and cabin crew alongside proven testing technologies to prove the accuracy and ease of the totally non-invasive saliva-based test.
Developed by medical tech company Canary Global, the Pelican Covid-19 Ultra Rapid Covid-19 test has already been approved for use by European regulators and is currently going through the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval process in the United States.
The test produces a result around 98 per cent quicker than the current generation of rapid antigen tests. Unlike other similar tests, the Pelican doesn’t require a throat or nasal swab and users simply have to spit a small amount of saliva into a disposable unit.
The unit is then plugged into a re-usable digital reader which is paired with a smartphone. The accompanying app displays the result in just 25 seconds. Lab tests show the test delivers 98 per cent sensitivity and 100 per cent specificity in both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.
“As we start to see the opening up of travel we remain committed to exploring easy and affordable testing solutions to help our customers travel again, whether it’s for business, to reunite with family and friends or take a much-needed break abroad,” British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle commented.
“We think this new ultra-rapid test is a game-changer so we are delighted to work with the team at Canary to begin initial trials with our flight and cabin crew, before exploring what role it could play as a customer testing option,” Doyle continued.
British Airways will initially trial the test on cabin crew and pilots but Doyle suggested the airline was keen to expand the test for customer use on routes where pre-flight testing is required.
The test gives BA the potential to cheaply take control of the testing process and dramatically reduce the cost facing travellers. An in-house testing programme that requires passengers to take the test at the check-in counter might also be the answer to concerns that some travellers are buying fake test certificates or even taking multiple tests until they finally get a false negative result.
Canary chief executive, Raj Reddy explained that the Pelican is capable of detecting COVID-19 variants. “We developed the test with the travel industry in mind where speed, accuracy and ease of use are paramount,” said Reddy.
“We are very excited to partner with BA as pioneer and industry leader to trial this test; and we hope the Pelican test can soon be used as a standard test for travellers and crew around the world.”
British Airways currently offers discounted COVID-19 pre-departure tests for travellers returning to the UK which can produce a result in 30 minutes. The lateral flow device uses a throat and nasal swab and has to be observed by a medical professional via a Zoom call.
Photo Credit: British Airways
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.