With the ever changing rules in the UK due to COVID, is transit allowed through airports like London Heathrow? In short, the answer is yes, London airports remain open to transiting passengers. Here’s what you need to know about transiting through London.
Check out our other blog Airport Transit And COVID: Do I Need To Quarantine? for the rules at other major transit hubs.
All passengers arriving into the London will require a negative PCR test taken less than 3 days (72 hours) before you arrive. This also applies to transit passengers.
Two types of transit
- ‘airside’ – you do not pass through UK border control before you leave on your connecting journey
- ‘landside’ – you pass through UK border control, but come back through it and leave the UK within a short amount of time (usually 24 hours)
Before travel to the UK
If you will be transiting through the UK or transit via London during COVID, you need to do the following before you travel to the UK:
- take a coronavirus test
- complete the passenger locator form
If you will be transiting landside through the UK, you need to do the following when you complete your passenger locator form.
- select ‘Stay in the UK’ under the Your travel plans section
- reply ‘No’ to any questions about whether you are required to complete COVID-19 tests on arrival
- reply ‘No’ to the question ‘Have you visited a Red List country within the past 10 days and/or are required by law to quarantine in a government approved facility?’
COVID test required for ‘airside’ transit
If you are transiting in the UK and remaining ‘airside’ you are still expected to provide a negative COVID test.
As you’re transiting with onward travel outside of the UK and not passing through UK border control, you are exempt from self-isolation requirements.
Quarantine and COVID tests required for ‘landside’ transit
Flying on two separate tickets and transiting through London is permitted. As you are flying to the UK, you must provide a COVID negative test.
You are allowed to move between airports or stay at a hotel before catching your next flight. You may travel directly between ports (such as Eurostar to Heathrow). However, it’s recommended you do not take public transport. There are lots of taxi services available from London’s airports and stations.
If you’re staying in the UK for fewer than 10 days, you must self-isolate (i.e. not leave your hotel room) for the whole duration until your next flight. You may end self-isolation to go to your departure point (airport, train or bus station). You should travel straight to the departure point and avoid public transport.
Do note that the government’s advice and exemptions above is for anyone transiting through the UK to a country outside of the Common Travel Area.
When you transit through London during COVID
You do not need to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test on arrival or on day 2 and day 8.
This applies if you are transiting ‘airside’ or ‘landside’.
If you are transiting landside (entering the UK from outside the Common Travel Area), you must be entering the UK for the sole purposes of continuing a journey to a country outside of the Common Travel Area. You must either:
- remain within your port of entry until your departure from England, or
- travel directly from your port of entry to another port of departure in England
New quarantine rules from 2 August for amber list arrivals
From 4am 2 August 2021, fully vaccinated visitors from the EU and US will be able to travel to England without having to quarantine or take a day 8 test on arrival.
Amber arrivals who have been fully vaccinated in the USA and European countries will still be required to complete a pre-departure test before arrival into England, alongside a PCR test on or before day 2 after arrival.
This rule does not apply to visitors arriving from France.
Can I transit if I’ve visited a ‘red-list’ country?
If you are transiting within the common travel area, and you have been in a red list country in the previous 10 days, then you are required to enter into managed quarantine at your port of entry. This applies whether transiting airside or landside.
When you arrive in England you need to follow the rules for the highest risk country or territory that you have been in or passed through in the previous 10 days. That can include transit stops. A transit stop is a stop where passengers can get on or off the same part of the transport in which you are travelling. It can apply to ships, trains or flights. Your ticket should show if a stop is a transit stop. The rules of a country or territory that you make a transit stop in could apply if:
- new passengers get on and are able to mix with you
- you or other passengers get off the transport you are on and mix with other people, then get on again
Making a transit stop would not affect what you have to do on arrival in England if, during the stop:
- no new passengers, who are able to mix with you, get on
- no-one on-board gets off and mixes with people outside
- passengers get off but do not get back on
Managed quarantine on arrival for red list arrivals
Starting on 15 February, all arrivals for people into England who have visited or passed through a red list country must quarantine for 10 days in a government designated hotel. You must:
- obtain a negative PCR test within 72 hours of your flight to the UK
- quarantine for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel
- take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of quarantining
You must book the accommodation before you travel and your own expense. Further details on the quarantine hotel is available on the UK government website.
Which airports in England accept arrivals from red-list countries?
If you’re required to quarantine in a managed quarantine facility you can only arrive in England at certain ports of entry. Currently these are:
- Heathrow Airport
- Gatwick Airport
- London City Airport
- Birmingham Airport
- Bristol Airport
- Farnborough Airport
Do Your Research
While we’ve made every effort to ensure we’ve presented accurate information, the situation is changing continually. If you are flying and have a transit stop in your itinerary, be sure to check if you need to quarantine.
We therefore recommend you check directly your home and destination government websites before travelling. For more detailed information about travel to the UK during the COVID pandemic visit: https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control
Although transit is permitted through London airports, with COVID-19 still a major problem in many countries worldwide, please do your research.
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