With the UK Government releasing its Global Travel Taskforce framework for easing travel restrictions, research by ABTA – The Travel Association and the Airport Operators Association (AOA) reveals that the cost of PCR testing for international travel in the UK is double that of testing in other European countries. With a PCR test now required on Day 2 after returning to the UK from even the lowest-risk countries, the research also highlights the disproportionate cost of PCR testing for travellers.

On average a UK pre-departure PCR test costs £128 per person, while across eight key destinations the test costs less than half that at just under £62 per person. Those travelling from the UK to a European destination would pay an average of £306 for testing as they will need a UK pre-departure test, a pre-departure test in their destination country at the end of their holiday and a post-arrival test in the UK if they have flown to a green country under the new traffic light system announced on Friday 9 April.

Both ABTA and AOA are calling on the Government to look at whether passengers who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing when travelling to green list countries.

“The restart of international travel needs to be affordable and accessible for everyone – so that people can take their much-needed overseas holidays and visit the family and friends abroad whom they’ve not been able to see for such a long time,” said Mark Tanzer Chief Executive of ABTA. “Travel to the lower risk, green categorised countries should be as unrestricted as possible. The requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people – we welcome the fact that the Government commits to engaging with industry on this issue. Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus. The Government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility.”

Karen Dee, Chief Executive, AOA added that the cost of testing could act as a significant barrier to restarting aviation. “With UK pre-departure and post-arrival tests costing around double the average in countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, UK travellers are penalised for wanting to travel from the UK.”

She also highlighted that, “with the Government offering free rapid tests domestically, it is vital that business travellers and holidaymakers can make use of these for green-listed countries upon their return. The Government should also work to reduce, if not eliminate, the cost for pre-departure tests in the UK.”

Echoing these sentiments, Henry Smith MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Aviation said that “the sky-high cost of PCR tests run the risk of being a major disincentive to travel for many and the Government must ensure that these costs are kept as low as possible, we simply cannot afford to have a framework that burdens people in the UK with double the testing costs of other European nations.

“We should be looking to less expensive and burdensome tests which are now the standard and accepted test in every other part of society rather than having Europe’s most expensive tests which will only make travel unaffordable for many.”

Header image: PCR tests being conducted at the CENTOGENE test centre at Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

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