Anger over Covid travel test charges with PCR checks costing more than holidays

A travel industry has called for an investigation into the fees for coronavirus testing – with the summer vacation costing less than various tests of the virus in some cases.

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a “framework” for resuming vacation travel overseas that requires all arrivals to undergo coronavirus tests before and after arrival.

Post-arrival tests must be polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type, costing around £ 120. This has created a violent backlash from the travel industry that allows travelers returning from low risk countries to conduct side flow tests which are cheaper and faster.

The combined cost of testing may in some cases be closer to the actual vacation itself, it has been claimed.

But Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2, predicted the government would seek to open what he called “routes of fame”, such as departures from Heathrow to Singapore and Israel, from smaller hubs like Birmingham Airport at the expense of typical summer vacation destinations.

He told a Weekly trip Webcast: “What we want are routes that ordinary people want, not the business routes,” and most of the people in his city would prefer to visit Spain and Turkey.

“We have to be careful that (government) doesn’t say, ‘Look, we kept our promise, we got some flights on,’ and it’s the business routes. That’s not good.”

Coronavirus variants can only be identified using PCR testing, according to a government source.

Recognizing that “cost is definitely an issue,” Shapps said Friday that he is committed to “reducing the cost of these tests and looking into some innovative things we could do”.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association, the trade association of the world’s airlines, has asked the Competition and Market Inspectorate (CMA) to investigate the test prices.

A statement said: “Mandate the UK Competition and Markets Authority to act in the interests of consumers and initiate an immediate investigation into coronavirus testing fees.”

It has also called for all coronavirus tests to be exempt from VAT. Such a tax on tests is “an unnecessary obstacle to the journey that this initiative seeks to facilitate”.

The CMA said any new cases or investigations would be announced on its website.

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