Passengers with negative Covid tests turned away from London-bound flight

As the UK’s test-before-travel scheme took effect, passengers have been turned away from a transatlantic flight because the airline did not regard their negative Covid tests as sufficiently high standard.

Hannah Holland, a 23-year-old British woman from Sheffield, was booked to travel on American Airlines (AA) from Philadelphia via Chicago’s O’Hare airport to London Heathrow.

It was the first departure of flight AA86 for which passengers were required to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before being allowed on board.

New rules for arrivals to the UK took effect at 4am; the flight from Chicago was due to arrive at Heathrow airport at 8.40am.

Ms Holland had taken an antigen Covid test – one of the options approved by the UK government – within 72 hours of departure.

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She travelled without a problem between Philadelphia and Chicago. At the checkpoint for flight AA86 to London she presented a negative certificate but was told her test was not valid for travel to the UK.

Ms Holland’s father told The Independent: “A British AA staff member was telling everyone with a rapid antigen Covid test that they weren’t valid.

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“My daughter was in tears begging her to let her on the plane.”

The UK government says an “an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device” is acceptable – though it stipulates the traveller must “ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details”.

American’s partner carrier, British Airways, simply asks for “evidence of a negative Lamp, PCR or antigen Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure”.

Other passengers were also denied boarding flight AA86. The Boeing 787 departed late, though it is not known if that was connected with refusing boarding to travellers.

Ms Holland was eventually flown back to Philadelphia. Her father has asked her MP to intervene.

The Independent has asked American Airlines for a response.

On Friday the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, revealed that only one in 1,000 of the coronavirus cases in England in December were brought in from abroad.

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