British Airways crew to trial ultra-rapid COVID-19 tests

Shutterstock / Markus Mainka

British Airways is starting trials of the ultra-rapid COVID-19 antigen tests, aiming to become the first airline in the world to conduct these trials. The air carrier plans to invite its pilots and cabin crew members to try out a new virus test and compare its performance to the existing tests which the crew members have been already taking.

The new rapid antigen tests were already approved for use in the United Kingdom and Europe but not in the United States. They combine the power of nanosensors and digital virus detection technology and use a sample of a person’s saliva. The sample is taken into a disposable sensor unit and inserted into a re-usable digital reader which is connected to a blue-tooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone. 

Then, the real-time results of the test appear through a special app on most iOS and Android smartphones. According to the Indian medical technology company Canary Global, the technology allows getting results instantly within 25 seconds while delivering 98% sensitivity and 100% specificity in symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of the COVID-19 infected individuals.

Sean Doyle, the Chairman and CEO of British Airways, expressed expectations that the new ultra-rapid test could be one of the affordable testing solutions which could play a significant role in the air travel opening as well as help the air carriers to boost the industry recovery. 

“We think this new ultra-rapid test is a game-changer so we are delighted to work with the team at Canary to begin initial trials with our flight and cabin crew, before exploring what role it could play as a customer testing option,” Doyle said.

British Airways hopes that after successful evaluation of its flight and cabin crew, the new testing technology could be offered on applicable airline routes where such COVID-19 tests meet the stated specificity and sensitivity standards.


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