NEWS: Virgin return to Manchester, Vaccine passport stamps & 3 more UK airports to offer cheap testing

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Virgin Atlantic return to Manchester

Virgin Atlantic has returned to its home in the north, ramping up operations and offering customers some much-needed winter sun with the relaunch of flights to Barbados.  The direct flight from Manchester Airport will be the airline’s first flight since March, following the impact of Covid-19.

The airline’s return also sees the introduction of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 to Manchester for the first time, offering the airline’s Upper Class, Premium and Economy Light, Classic and Delight cabins.  Passengers can take advantage of over 1000 hours of in-flight entertainment, with the latest films, T.V programmes and music channels available throughout the journey. The screens are also a big improvement on the older versions with high definition. 

The relaunch of Virgin Atlantic’s flights from Manchester reaffirms the airline’s commitment to serving the region.  New services to Islamabad launch next week, with other destinations such as Los Angeles, Orlando, New York and Atlanta restarting from Manchester over the coming months.    

Virgin Atlantic is continuing with its plans to bring its iconic Clubhouse experience to Manchester Airport.  Expected later in 2021, the airline’s Upper Class customers and Gold Card members can take advantage of the exclusive space before their flight, which will include a la carte dining, a full service bar and quiet working spaces, allowing passengers to relax and rejuvenate before they depart.


Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented;

“We have missed flying customers from Manchester, our home in the North and I’m delighted we’re able to offer them the opportunity for some much-needed winter sun, with reintroduction of our Barbados flights.   Despite the challenges brought by Covid-19, our commitment to the region has never wavered. It’s an exciting time as demand gradually returns and we build up flying from the region, as well as introducing new routes. Our desire to delight and connect customers flying from the North West continues and we are looking forward to welcoming them back and flying them safely to their favourite destinations.”


Vaccine passport stamps

The Telegraph is reporting that ministers are considering a “COVID passport stamp” to show that they have had the vaccine. The Departent of transport is looking at ways to help the travel industry but making it easier for people to trace. It’s highly likely that many countries such as Australia, Thailand, and New Zealand will require a vaccination for entry, or face 14 days quarantine. Other less cautious countries are likely to have a two-tier system with those not being vaccinated asked to have one or two tests to prove they are negative. 

There have already been trials of an app to show that you have had the vaccination. Hopefully, countries will work together to come up with a common standard. A passport stamp does sound useful if they could ensure it was forge-proof. 


Manchester Airports Group launches Covid-19 testing facilities at Manchester, Stansted, and East Midlands

MAG testing PIC1

A number of UK airports are now offering COVID tests at reduced fees for passengers to encourage travellers to start flying. We will shortly be publishing a list of the major airports around the world where you can get private testing. Getting a test at the right times that is reliable and not too expensive can be tricky. You can have a read of people’s experiences with testing for travel in this article.

As there is more competition such as airports and technology improves, I expect to see a bit drop in the cost of PCR tests. There is due to be large new test processing facilities opening very soon, which will also help the situation. I would expect the average cost to fall to around £80 for a PCR test in the next 6-8 weeks. Currently, the faster turnaround ones are around £120-450 per test. 

The full range of tests – RT-PCR, RT-LAMP, Rapid Antigen and Antibody – will be available to all passengers in one location. They will be delivered in partnership with airport services and travel medical provider, Collinson. UT’s important to check which test the country you are travelling to accepts. They can be very specific, even down to whether it is a home test or an in clinic test. 

MAG, the UK’s largest airport group, also became the first operator to give its passengers the chance to book discounted pre-flight testing appointments on the high street at selected Boots UK stores.

The news means passengers using ManchesterLondon Stansted and East Midlands Airports will be given maximum flexibility when planning their trips, and comes in the week that the UK Government lifts England’s international travel ban.

“We have created a booking option on our website, which enables you to select the right test for the right destination, and at the location that is most convenient for you”
MAG Chief Executive, Charlie Cornish
Certain governments allow pre-departure tests in order to shorten or completely alleviate quarantine requirements in the destination country. Others require them in order to gain entry. Having a full range of tests available at the airport – for any passenger planning to fly who does not suspect they have COVID-19 – will let MAG passengers choose whichever process they need to meet the pre-departure testing requirements of many of MAG’s most popular markets, such as Spain and Italy, as well as some long-haul destinations.

Passengers will also be able to book the tests they need to shorten their self-isolation period upon return under the UK Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme.

‘Test to Release’ scheme, announced last week, will launch on December 15th and allow travellers arriving from higher risk countries to reduce their period of quarantine by taking a test five days after they arrive in the UK.

Boots offers an in-store RT-PCR Covid-19 testing service, which returns results within 48 hours from more than 50 stores across the UK, specifically for customers who do not suspect they have Covid-19. MAG passengers will be able to access a 5% discount, which customers can access through the airport’s website.

Airport testing prices through Collinson start at £40 for Antibody tests, £50 for Antigen tests, £79 for RT-LAMP tests and £99 for RT-PCR tests.

MAG testing PIC2

MAG’s service will cater for both outbound and inbound testing, and adapt as Government travel requirements change. Its online booking portal will allow passengers to choose the correct test and testing location for their specific requirements – whether at the dedicated airport facilities or elsewhere.

MAG’s testing services are the first to be offered by an airport group at multiple locations across the country. They also allow for direct booking of tests that can be taken either at the airport or on the high-street, and before or after travel. MAG’s goal is to make testing available to as many passengers as possible, helping to get the country flying again as England comes out of its second lockdown.

All of MAG’s providers, including their laboratory facilities, are private. While this means that customers will have to pay for tests, the cost of these tests are expected to come down over time as technology improves.

Testing for travel is likely to evolve over the coming months and MAG’s offering will change to match – whether by offering new kinds of tests or adding more capacity in terminals or through partner locations. 

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2 Comments on "NEWS: Virgin return to Manchester, Vaccine passport stamps & 3 more UK airports to offer cheap testing"

  1. Apparently our local Waitrose in Hove will be offering PCR tests for £120 soon too!

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