San Francisco Offers COVID-19 Testing To All Airport And Airline Employees

San Francisco International Airport is ramping up its rapid COVID-19 testing program. The airport has been testing airline crews since late July. Now, it is extending the program to airport employees. San Francisco Airport says it is the first airport in the United States to offer tests to its employees.

San Francisco International Airport is now offering COVID-19 testing to airline crews and airport employees. Photo: Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons

“SFO continues to take action to protect the health and safety of both our employees and our travelers,” said San Francisco Airport Director Ivar Satero in a statement.

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SFO works to keep its 46,000 workers COVID free

Before the travel downturn, more than 46,000 people worked at San Francisco International Airport. In addition to 15,000 employees of various airlines, the airport supports a wide variety of other aviation-related jobs in transportation, retail, and government services.

With the vast majority of its employees not being airline crew, the San Francisco Airport is teaming up with a private health care provider to test all its people for COVID-19 and see a result back within one hour.

“We’ve been providing medical care to travelers and employees at San Francisco International Airport for over two decades through St. Mary’s SFO Medical Clinic,” said Dr David Klein from Dignity Health.

“We are pleased to expand our relationship with San Francisco International through this additional partnership.”

COVID-19 testing is available between 08:00 and 18:00 daily in the international terminal but away from high pedestrian traffic areas. All employees will have access to an online portal to book a timeslot.  The testing process is quick and easy. Results come back within the hour, with shorter timeframes expected soon.

The testing is available at SFO’s international terminal. Photo: Hakan Dahlstrom via Wikimedia Commons

Test results coming back quicker make it a possible solution to travel concerns

Until, or if, a vaccine gets developed, this type of test looks like being a stop-gap solution to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and facilitating airline travel.

As the time to get a test result backs shortens, it is becoming more and more viable.

While the testing at San Francisco Aiport is complimentary for airline crews and employees, offering it for a fee to airline passengers just before traveling seems a practical way to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

While testing right before departure isn’t foolproof, it does go a long way to mitigating the risk of traveling with COVID-19. It also seems eminently more sensible to be tested and cleared before departure than upon arrival.

Frankfurt Airport has been offering COVID-19 tests for both arriving and departing passengers since late June. When initiated, the results took about three hours to come back. While not the end of the world, three hours is a long time to sit around waiting. But in a matter of months, that time frame is reducing fast.

Will fast turn-around COVID-19 be the path to normalizing travel again? Photo: U.S. Army via

Is this the way of the future?

The increased efficacy of COVID-19 testing means it could get readily built into the traveling process. What it does need is a co-ordinated approach between airlines, airports, and governments. Right now, airports like Frankfurt and San Francisco are running COVID-19 testing as stand-alone islands.

Rolling out uniform testing procedures with uniform protocols at gateway airports around the world would seem like a pretty sensible idea.

Have a test just before departure, come back negative, get cleared to fly. It’s not foolproof, but it seems like an obvious way to kickstart international flying again and re-open borders.

Meanwhile, airports like San Francisco are showing the way. While only open to airline crews and employees, the onsite testing and fast turnaround for results is a possible template for fast, efficient, and widespread passenger testing.

Is COVID-19 testing before departure a good idea or not? Is it the way of the future? Should it roll out to test passengers at airports elsewhere? Post a comment and have your say.