British Airways has apologised after insisting that passengers from Heathrow to Reykjavik obtain a private test for coronavirus before departure – even though the Icelandic authorities will accept no test but their own, which is conducted on arrival.
Clive Stacey, founder of the Surrey-based specialist tour operator Discover The World, contacted The Independent after what he said was a failed series of attempts to persuade BA it was wrong to make the demand.
Several clients booked for trips this month to the North Atlantic island, which has been almost unscathed by coronavirus.
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They were originally due to travel on Icelandair. But when that carrier cancelled its flight from Heathrow, it correctly rebooked them on British Airways – as European air passengers’ rights rules require airlines to do.
However, BA insisted that the travellers must get privately tested for coronavirus in advance, even though Iceland’s airport authority says: “Travellers will be given the choice of a test for the virus on arrival to all international airports in Iceland, or a two-week quarantine.”
Mr Stacey, who has been running trips to Iceland for 37 years, said: “The fact is that the Icelanders will not accept any other test but their own which has to be conducted on arrival in Iceland.
“So the poor BA passengers are warned that they will be denied boarding if they fail to take the test in advance.
“Then have take and pay for a further test on arrival. That is the worst possible start to a holiday in a place which should be a dream destination for people wanting an escape.
“In times like this, businesses are facing all kinds of problems and so the mistake can be forgiven. But I spent hours trying to persuade British Airways to relax their demands without success.”
Holidaymakers were forced to pay around £150 for a test in the UK, before having to pay all over again for another test in Iceland, at a cost of £52 if booked on advance or £63 on arrival.
Mr Stacey said the test-on-arrival system is working well: “The results take about four or five hours. You will be allowed to go about your holiday, and get the results by text message.
“When you’re travelling around Iceland, they know you’ve been tested, and it takes any tension out of the situation.”
After The Independent contacted British Airways, an airline spokesperson said the requirement had been dropped.
“We’ve apologised to a small number of customers travelling on two flights to Iceland for an error in our communications.
“This is a dynamic and fast-moving situation and we are continually monitoring the different entry requirements for different countries, which frequently change.
“We recommend that our customers check the local entry requirements of their destination before travelling.”
Many countries do require a certificate of a negative coronavirus test before they will allow travellers in.
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