Passengers flying from Heathrow to Italy or Hong Kong will now be able to get a Covid-19 test at the airport and receive their results within an hour.
The private test costs £80 and is aimed at helping people travelling to destinations where proof of a negative result is required on arrival.
A growing number of countries worldwide are adding the UK to their list of high-risk coronavirus countries, meaning travellers face more restrictions.
The tests are only being offered to people going to Hong Kong and Italy, because authorities in Hong Kong require people to show they have a negative test result, taken within 72 hours of a flight from the UK, while people arriving in Italy from the UK must either prove they had a negative coronavirus test before departure, or take a test on arrival.
Currently, anyone travelling from Italy to the UK must self-isolate for two weeks but there is no quarantine measure for returnees from Hong Kong.
Anyone wishing to get a test must book online before making their way to the airport and they are available in Terminals 2 and 5.
The testing facilities will initially be open for four weeks.
To start, the facilities will offer LAMP saliva testing (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) and will expand to offer antigen testing in the coming weeks.
Unlike PCR tests, which are used by the NHS, LAMP and antigen tests can be processed without being sent to a laboratory, so are much quicker.
Announcing the launch, aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport described the pre-departure testing regime as the “crucial next step toward keeping the travel industry moving while limiting the spread of the virus”.
The announcement follows the launch of Collinson and Swissport’s test-on-arrival facility at Heathrow in August, which is still sitting empty as it has yet to gain government approval for use.
Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said: “These facilities will make it easier for passengers going to those countries to get a test and have the potential to provide a service for arriving passengers.
“Ultimately, we need a common international standard for pre-departure testing, and we welcome the UK government’s recent announcement that it wants to take a global lead in establishing this.
“We will work with them to make this happen as soon as possible, so that we protect livelihoods as well as lives.”
Earlier this month, the government unveiled a task force to develop a coronavirus testing system as a potential way of easing quarantine restrictions for arriving passengers.
David Evans, joint chief executive officer at Collinson, said: “With countries around the world adding the UK to their list of high-risk countries, we need to find a way to work with governments, leading travel brands and other commercial entities to safely open up travel out of the UK.”
Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines all fly routes that now require pre-departure tests.
Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Shai Weiss said: “As long as the 14-day quarantine remains in place, demand for travel will not return and the UK’s economic recovery, which relies on free-flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off.
“Half a million UK jobs depend on open skies and a fully functioning UK aviation industry.
“The government’s global travel task force must act swiftly to replace quarantine with passenger testing in November.”