Heathrow is to provide fast-track lanes for fully vaccinated arrivals as the airline industry steps up pressure on ministers to open up quarantine-free travel to amber destinations.
Under a pilot programme to be launched this week, passengers from selected destinations will be able to upload their coronavirus vaccination certificate before boarding.
On arrival at the airport, they will then be directed to dedicated lanes at the border to speed their passage through immigration.
The move comes before an expected announcement this week when the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, will set out details of the government’s plans for travellers from amber list countries to self-isolate on arrival.
Ministers reportedly favour a policy that would take effect before August to waive quarantine rules for double-vaccinated passengers from amber-list countries to England.
Heathrow with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic – the two airlines involved in the trial programme – said it was essential that there was no delay in implementing the changes.
The scheme will initially involve fully vaccinated volunteers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York.
The Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from 19 July.”
His comments were echoed by the Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Shai Weiss, who said: “To reap the benefits of the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout, the UK government must act now to remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from ‘amber’ countries, and no later than the domestic reopening on 19 July.
“The UK is already falling behind [the] US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”
The call came after the health secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that people in England who have been double jabbed – as well as the under-18s – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.
However, there was consternation among some Tory MPs that the change will not come into force until 16 August, almost a month after other controls are due to have ended.
With cases continuing to soar, there were fears that millions of people could be required to quarantine in the meantime, potentially damaging output just as the economy hopes to pick up pace.