Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Canada-bound flyer denied boarding at Bengaluru airport for failing to book Covid-19 test at Heathrow transit

Bengaluru: In what is claimed to be a violation of passenger rights, a Bengaluru man was denied boarding at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) on a British Airways flight to Toronto via London after the airline staff insisted on a mandatory prebooking for a Covid test for his brief transit in Heathrow.

However, the UK government’s official websites say passengers on airside transit (those who do not pass through the UK border control) don’t need to quarantine or take Covid-19 travel tests.

For Mahesh Rajanna, a businessman, the trip to Toronto was much awaited as the pandemic kept his travel plans on hold since early 2020. After much difficulty, the Yelahanka resident secured a Rs 35,000 ticket on the flight BA 0118 scheduled to take off from KIA on Sunday morning to Heathrow Airport. From there, he was supposed to fly BA 099 to his final destination, Canada, following a four-hour layover in the UK. But the excitement was shortlived.

The 39-year-old reached KIA after completing all the formalities and he was in possession of a negative report. But he was shocked when the ground staff told him that he needed to produce a pre-booking receipt for Covid testing in Heathrow during his period of transit. “Nowhere—the UK’s official portal, the Canadian health website or the British Airways guidelines— has this rule mentioned. I had updated all the required travel documents on the airline-recommended VeriFLY app for the UK and ArriveCAN app for Canada and received acknowledgement,” Mahesh said.

This is despite the official British portal,, mentioning the airside transit passengers need only a Covid test while landing in England and are exempted from quarantine and tests there unlike the landside transit (those needing to cross the border control). “The Bengaluru staff insisted that I book a testing slot at Heathrow. In desperation, I did try to book a slot but failed as it was ridiculous to find a test in such a busy airport that can give me results within my four-hour transit time,” lamented Mahesh.

Some other passengers too faced a similar situation at the check-in counter and had to return home. The airline’s helpline was not reachable, they said, adding they couldn’t reschedule or cancel the tickets.

08/12/21 Petlee Peter/Times of India

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