Heathrow Airport is introducing an optional rapid COVID-19 test for passengers flying to Hong Kong and Italy.
It is the first such test available in the UK, it costs £80 and gives results in an hour.
They can be taken at terminals 2 and 5 and are faster than the usual NHS PCR ones because they don’t need to be processed in a laboratory.
The aim is to help travellers going to countries that require negative results on arrival, such as Hong Kong and Italy.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday the government has been planning a ‘test-and-release’ system to reduce the quarantine period for people coming from abroad.
Analysts at Peel Hunt noted Heathrow’s tests have a “prohibitively high” cost, which is also a significant premium to the €10 charge for assays taken on arrival in Italy.
It is also more expensive than a short-haul flight within Europe, with British Airways flights from Heathrow to Milan available from £74 including all taxes, particularly over the off-season such as the winter. Ryanair is currently selling flights from Stansted to Milan for £7.99 including all taxes.
“£80 would considerably more than double the cost of flying and would make it completely uncompetitive if offered to lower-cost airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air at the UK airports that they operate from,” analysts noted.
“We are also concerned that these rapid tests are likely to be significantly less accurate than the PCR tests with 3-4% false positives.”
“An error rate this high would mean 6-8 passengers were wrongly denied boarding on an average short-haul flight, which if they were travelling as part of a family, would result in 6-8 passenger groups not being able to travel,” the broker concluded.