Manchester Airport unveils new facility as part of UK’s largest airport testing scheme to help get Britain flying again
Manchester Airport has today launched a new Covid-19 testing facility, as part of a move by its parent company, Manchester Airports Group (MAG).
The announcement means the full range of tests – RT-PCR, RT-LAMP, Rapid Antigen and Antibody - will be available to all passengers in a new, purpose-built facility just outside of the main terminal building. They will be delivered in partnership with airport services and travel medical provider, Collinson.
MAG, the UK’s largest airport group, also became the first operator to give its passengers the chance to book discounted pre-flight testing appointments on the high street at selected Boots UK stores.
The news means passengers using Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports will be given maximum flexibility when planning their trips, and comes in the week that the UK Government lifts England’s international travel ban.
Certain governments allow pre-departure tests in order to shorten or completely alleviate quarantine requirements in the destination country. Others require them in order to gain entry. Having a full range of tests available at the airport – for any passenger planning to fly who does not suspect they have COVID-19 - will let MAG passengers choose whichever process they need to meet the pre-departure testing requirements of many of MAG’s most popular markets, such as Spain and Italy, as well as some long-haul destinations.
Passengers will also be able to book the tests they need to shorten their self-isolation period upon return under the UK Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme.
The scheme, announced last week, will launch on December 15th and allow travellers arriving from higher risk countries to reduce their period of quarantine by taking a test five days after they arrive in the UK.
‘Test to Release’ follows in the footsteps of a number of countries who are already offering quarantine-free inbound travel to those able to provide evidence of a negative test.
Boots offers an in-store RT-PCR Covid-19 testing service, which returns results within 48 hours from more than 50 stores across the UK, specifically for customers who do not suspect they have Covid-19. MAG passengers will be able to access a 5% discount, which customers can access through the airport’s website.
Airport testing prices through Collinson start at £40 for Antibody tests, £50 for Antigen tests, £79 for RT-LAMP tests and £99 for RT-PCR tests.
Managing Director of Manchester Airport, Karen Smart, said:
“As the UK emerges from a ban on international travel, we know our passengers are keen to start flying again, but that many of Manchester Airport’s most popular destinations, such as the Canary Islands, require a negative test before you arrive.
“This new facility will make the process of showing you’re infection-free when planning and booking a holiday as easy and cost-effective as possible in the current circumstances. Our new booking platform makes it easy to select the right test for your destination, and at the location that is most convenient for you. Located right by the terminal building it means passengers can either opt for a test on the day of departure before they go through security, or visit in the run up to their journey at a time to suit them, depending on the test they are taking and the requirements of the country they are visting.
“This also means Manchester is perfectly placed to support the introduction of a UK arrivals testing regime, which will enable travellers to reduce the length of time they need to self-isolate if they test negative after five days.
“This is the latest example of MAG leading the way as we look to work with Government and the rest of our industry to get Britain flying again.”
MAG’s service will cater for both outbound and inbound testing, and adapt as Government travel requirements change. Its online booking portal will allow passengers to choose the correct test and testing location for their specific requirements – whether at the dedicated airport facilities or elsewhere.
MAG’s testing services are the first to be offered by an airport group at multiple locations across the country. They also allow for direct booking of tests that can be taken either at the airport or on the high-street, and before or after travel. MAG’s goal is to make testing available to as many passengers as possible, helping to get the country flying again as England comes out of its second lockdown.
David Evans, Joint CEO, Collinson said: “In order to restore confidence in travel, it is critical that travellers can navigate the many different testing regimes now required by different governments around the world. We were the first company to set up COVID testing facilities at a UK airport and our partnership with MAG will bring comprehensive testing facilities to Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports. This is a major step forward in opening up the UK to safe travel.
Our new facilities will also support the UK Government’s ‘Test To Release’ programme, scheduled for launch on December 15, and are flexible enough to respond to any changing requirements or legislation from both a pre-departure and inbound testing perspective. Having breadth of testing capability and the flexibility to scale is critical to ensuring the aviation and travel sector can recover from this pandemic, helping to protect jobs and restore consumer confidence.”
MAG is committed to supporting the Government’s requirement for travel testing to be carried out privately and not draw on NHS capacity, which is needed for key workers and Test & Trace. All of MAG’s providers, including their laboratory facilities, are private. While this means that customers will have to pay for tests, the cost of these tests are expected to come down over time as technology improves.
Testing for travel is likely to evolve over the coming months and MAG’s offering will change to match – whether by offering new kinds of tests or adding more capacity in terminals or through partner locations. MAG will help its passengers to navigate the various requirements for testing but ultimately passengers should always check the latest travel advice from Government before taking a test.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Understanding Testing – what each kind of test means
PCR Testing is the most sensitive test that is currently available, able to detect active infection some days before the patient is infectious or symptomatic. It is the gold standard test; used in the NHS daily. PCR testing takes around 5 hours to be performed, but as assays sometimes have to be repeated, a turnaround time of 24 hours is often given. PCR testing is performed in machines than cycle through different temperatures. As the process of changing temperature takes some time, the process is longer than other processes such as LAMP.
LAMP Testing is another form of genetic test, able to detect the RNA of the virus. It is a more recent development than PCR and is performed all at one temperature. It is generally faster and cheaper than PCR but is not considered to be as sensitive – but is still more sensitive than antigen testing. LAMP tests might be able to detect patients immediately before symptoms are displayed but this is unsure at present. Rapid LAMP testing can add a significant degree of confidence if performed before flying, for example, when all aboard have had a LAMP test prior to departure.
Antigen Testing is the fastest and cheapest of all lab tests for COVID-19. Unlike PCR and LAMP, the genetic material of the virus is not searched for, but rather the protein structures on a virally infected cell produced by COVID-19; usually the so-called ‘spike’ protein. Antigen tests often become positive after having had symptoms for a couple of days. Their use is particularly powerful when patients are attending communal events and a quick check needs to be performed to see if attendees are infectious with COVID-19. Also during winter months, when people often have symptoms of the common cold or flu, performing an antigen test will ascertain whether the condition is the coronavirus or not.
Antibody Testing is a test that looks for the presence of virus antibodies in the system. The presence of antibodies indicates that the patient has previously had COVID-19, as their body has developed the antibodies necessary to fight off the virus. However, a lack of antibodies does not indicate that the person has not had COVID-19, as not every patient develops them, and much is still to be understood about how long the antibodies last in the patient’s system.
Collinson is a global leader in the provision of traveller experiences including medical and security assistance and travel medical services. Its travel medical and security assistance business unit has more than 55 years’ experience in the delivery of international medical assistance and emergency care, including the handling of pandemics such as Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus. Last year alone, Collinson responded to over 95,000 emergency calls, managed over 40,000 medical cases and conducted over 3,000 aero-medical evacuations across the 170 countries it serves.
Collinson has over 2,000 employees operating out of 17locations globally, all working to deliver a broad range of traveller experiences that ensure the safety, welfare and comfort of 55 million people as they travel for business and leisure around the world. Collinson’s traveller experiences include the world’s leading airport lounge and experiences programme, Priority Pass, as well as travel insurance, identity assistance, flight delay, international health and travel risk management solutions. We work with clients including: American Express, Cathay Pacific, CBA, Mastercard, Radisson Hotel Group, UnionPay and Visa.