There is now an entirely new industry based around Covid testing. In 2019 the idea that ‘how to get tested before travel’ would be a common conversation starter would have seemed bizarre. Now it’s just normal. If you Google ‘UK Covid test before flying’ then over half a million results are found - this is now big business.
It can get confusing. The UK government has published guidance on their traffic light system, but there are different restrictions in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and the advice runs to hundreds of pages.
The travel industry is desperate for the entire system to be simplified because many people are looking at the rules and just deciding to stay local or not travel at all. It’s a common response - I’ll wait until next year.
What can the travel companies do to make life easier?
The airline Virgin Atlantic has made a good start. Virgin has partnered with the testing company Prenetics to create test bundles, with other companies taking a similar route, such as TUI and Chronomics, as well as Ryanair with Randox. These are kits that can be purchased before travel with simple guidelines on what needs to be done before, during, and after travel.
These kits help customers travelling to countries on the green and amber lists by offering a guide to all the required testing and documentation that will be required - it’s like a one-stop-shop all arranged by the airline.
Some might argue that travel companies should not need to be arranging passenger testing - the government rules have been published and passengers should be able to figure it out. I think that this view misses the point. The travel experience is really the customer experience and this needs to be as friction-free as possible.
When the pandemic was raging in 2020 and the world was locked down then it was simple - just don’t travel. However, we are now in an unusual situation where many of the Covid restrictions have gone, but travel is still far more complex than before.
I believe that smart travel companies will see this as an opportunity - in the same way that Virgin Atlantic has. An airline that can advertise flights alongside the promise that they will assist you through the entire testing process has a very strong point of differentiation when compared to the competition.
Virgin allows their passengers to test at home, at the airport, or at walk-in testing centres. Their online guide to the entire process is easy to read and concise. It helps the passenger work out what tests are needed, where they can do the testing, and anything else they need to prepare before flying.
I’m sure that many other travel companies will follow this example, but at present it really stands out as a great example of a company that is helping their customers to enjoy a much better travel experience. Hopefully these restrictions will not last for too much longer, but while they are still with us, every brand needs to be doing anything they can to simplify the processes their customers have to follow.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema licensed under Creative Commons.