United to Offer Covid-19 Testing
United Airlines is set to became the first U.S. airline to launch a COVID-19 pilot testing program for travelers that could make it easier for them to manage quarantine requirements and entry conditions of countries or popular destinations around the world. Starting on October 15, customers traveling on United from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii will have the option to take a rapid test at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of their trip. Hawaii will reopen on that date and it will let visitors bypass the 14 day quarantine requirement if they provide a negative test result.
The rapid Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test will be administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and their partner Dignity Health. Results will be provided in approximately 15 minutes and will be available to United customers on the same day as their flight departing from SFO. The mail-in test option will be administered by Color and it is recommended that customers initiate testing at least 10 days prior to their trip and provide their sample within 72 hours of their trip.
United says it has worked closely with Hawaii officials to ensure that any United customer, both visitors and Hawaiian residents returning home, who tests negative on either test would not be subjected to the state’s current 14-day quarantine requirement. United currently offers more flights to Hawaii than any other major network carrier including daily service between San Francisco and Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG) and Kona (KOA). The carrier plans to increase service to Hawaii on October 15, including the resumption of service between San Francisco and Lihue (LIH) and additional flights between San Francisco and Maui and Kona.
“Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” said Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer at United. “We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement our state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying and our hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems.”
Hawaii’s economy is largely dependent on tourism and COVID-19 has had a huge impact on local businesses this year. According to data from the industry group Airlines for America, carriers are flying 70% fewer flights to and from the Hawaiian islands, and travel into the state is down 94%. That’s mainly due to quarantine requirements, and delayed reopening as cases spiked around the country.
Other airlines are also working on developing their own COVID-19 testing for passengers in hopes that enabling travelers to bypass quarantine requirements would increase air travel demand, especially to international destinations.