HomeAirlinesBritish AirwaysHas British Airways Got The Key To Unlock The Travel World

Has British Airways Got The Key To Unlock The Travel World

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If you’re one of the lucky ones who has been able to travel internationally in recent months you’ll know all about the circus that can surround pre-departure Covid-19 tests, and if you’re reading this while waiting for your chance to finally get back to exploring the world you should know that it’s a circus that you’ll soon have to deal with too.

In most countries (the USA is probably an exception), the cost of Covid testing is ridiculously high and most of the government-approved tests take far too long to return a result and both of these issues will play a serious role in preventing the travel world from getting back on its feet if they’re not addressed.

Some governments (like the government of the UK) are already looking into doing something about the high costs that some testing facilities are charging the public but it’s a Covid test that British Airways is about to start trialing that may, in the short term at least, play a very significant role in allowing mass travel to restart sooner rather than later.

British Airways has announced that it is the first airline in the world to set up a trial of an “ultra-rapid” Covid-19 antigen test that returns a result in just 25 seconds. Yes, you read that right. 25 seconds.

The Pelican Covid-19 Ultra Rapid Covid-19 test is being trialed in partnership with medical tech company Canary Global and it has recently been approved for use in Europe and the UK and it’s currently going through the process for approval by the U.S. FDA.

British Airways says that it will be inviting flight and cabin crew to take the Pelican test alongside all the other tests that they are required to take, and the results will be compared to see how they compare.

The test is a non-invasive saliva ultra-rapid digital antigen test that reportedly delivers 98% sensitivity and 100% specificity in symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals with SARS-CoV-2. Users simply take a sample of their saliva into a disposable sensor unit, shake and insert it into a re-usable digital reader which is connected to a Bluetooth enabled device (like a smartphone), and then wait for the results that appear through a mobile app.

Importantly, the test is optimized to detect various variants of Covid-19 that have appeared in locations around the world.

Raj Reddy, the CEO of Canary GLobal and the inventor of the technology has said the following:

“Combining the power of nanosensor and digital detection technology, the Pelican CV19 test is the first ultra-rapid test that can return a PCR-like accuracy of 98% sensitivity and 100% specificity. We developed the test with the travel industry in mind where speed, accuracy and ease of use are paramount. We are very excited to partner with BA as pioneer and industry leader to trial this test; and we hope the Pelican test can soon be used as a standard test for travellers and crew around the world.”

Subject to successful evaluation, British Airways says that it hopes to be able to offer the test technology on applicable routes where tests have to meet the stated specificity and sensitivity standards.


Right now it’s possible to get a PCR test done at select airports around the world and have a result returned within the hour so some people may be wondering why we would need a test that’s even quicker. Well, it’s actually pretty simple.

Right now, only a very small proportion of people who usually travel are actually traveling so most testing centers aren’t really under any kind of strain (which makes it all the more amazing that some of them are as useless as they are). When travelers start returning in the kinds of number that the travel industry needs, even tests that currently seem pretty quick will not even be close to being quick enough to cope with demand…and that’s where this ultra-rapid test comes into play.

A test that takes just a brief moment to administer and just seconds to return a result could be a game-changer and may be the difference between travel restarting quickly and the travel reboot turning out to be a damp squib.

The challenge that lies ahead (both for Canary Global and any airlines that want to use this test) is to convince governments around the world that the test works as well as the PCR tests that are being used now and that it’s capable of detecting the variants that keep appearing.

The United States may consider an antigen test as an acceptable test for entry into the country but a lot of other nations feel differently, and while I’m sure airlines like BA would be delighted just to get transatlantic travel going again, it’s going to take more than just a handful of countries to accept the Pelican test if it’s to make the impact that the travel world needs it to make.

Bottom Line

British Airways is about to start trialing an ultra-rapid Covid-19 antigen test that can return a result in just 25 seconds. The test has got clearance from regulators in the UK and in Europe and it’s currently moving through the approval system in the US but, ultimately, it won’t be the regulators who decide if the test is robust enough to be trusted with opening up the travel world. That decision will be taken by politicians and it will be interesting to see how they react to the results of this and other trials.

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  1. Hit 30+ countries in last 15 months. Had to get a test to enter each one (including the US).

    It’s never been an issue. From the Balkans, to Mexico, Chile to the EU. Never had trouble.

    Also, if the governments (FDA) had not blocked this a year ago, everyone would have had access to rapid tests.

    But, governments keep getting in the way, ruining life for everyone so old people can be safe.

    • Well, George, you really are either a.) totally uninformed, b.) know the truth, but don’t care as long as you can spout your inane drivel, or c.) are a typical narcissistic, controlling liberal.

      The lockdowns were always about political control, nothing else. Treatment with HCQ and antibiotic cocktails were used world wide (except in the US) with almost 100% success rate in preventing / curing that virus called Covid-19. Total lockdowns were never needed (internationally look at Sweden, on the US side look at South Dakota, et. al.). Protect those most vulnerable, which include all ages with pre-existing morbidities and those above a certain age. Everyone else go about your normal lives. In those places the death rate was no higher that in the lockdown places. Go look it up, the data is out there. It’s called doing your homework.

      • Sheepdog, it appears as if you got your “data” from the 6 p.m. Faux Snooze headlines of April 1, 2020. What a difference 13+ months of unfolding facts (not faux fax) make. Your miracle cure of HCQ and azithromycin, initially touted by a notional French doctor and adopted by a politically-desperate, pathologically-narcissistic American president and his sycophants, was a bust, as was the Swedish “experiment,” much to the Swedes’ regret.

    • I typed a reply and clicked post, but apparently someone thought my response did not fit the liberal talking points mold.
      But it was the truth. They should post it.

      • Yes, that “someone” was the site’s spam filter which put your comment in the trash.
        Having reviewed the comment I’m actually impressed at how discerning the site’s software apparently is but as the comment didn’t break any of TFM’s rules, it has now been published.

  2. Maybe you should bear in mind, George, that it was those same ‘old people’ that made it possible for you to travel the world. It was also those ‘old people’ who paid for your education and medical expenses…………..or did you think that was just some entitlement given to you by a benevolent government. Please engage brain before opening mouth!

  3. Well, a couple of questions come to mind.
    1. Why?
    2. What’s the sampling iteration rate – 10, 20, 30, 40? – for this ultra fast test. The guy that developed the rapid test used the most in the US has stated that after about 20 iterations the returned results are questionable, but the rate being used is over 30 which, according to the inventor, produces false data. If you test positive with one of these, again according to the guy who knows what he is talking about, you are most likely only testing positive for being human.

    Good luck with this one being any better.
    Follow the science – it does not seem to be here.

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