United Airlines has added 10 new Caribbean and Latin American destinations to its COVID-19 testing program. Starting on 7th December, passengers flying out of Houston Intercontinental Airport can arrange self-collected, mail-in RT-PCR tests to comply with entry requirements at several destinations, including Panama, Belize, Peru, and Honduras.
New destinations for United passengers
The following destinations have been added to the United Airlines COVID testing program:
- Aruba (AUA)
- Belize City, Belize (BZE)
- Guatemala City, Guatemala (GUA)
- Lima, Peru (LIM)
- Nassau, Bahamas (NAS)
- Panama City, Panama (PTY)
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras (SAP)
- San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL)
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras (TGU)
All flights departing from Houston Intercontinental Airport to the above destinations will be eligible, starting from 7th December. The testing program ensures all travelers satisfy the entry requirements for each destination. Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer at United, commented in a statement,
“Widespread testing is key to unlocking international borders and safely reopening global travel. We’ll continue to lead the way on testing – United was the first to announce a customer COVID-19 testing program and the first to offer free tests on flights across the Atlantic.”
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
How does the testing program work?
Passengers booked on participating flights will be contacted 14 days before their journey with relevant instructions. Testing will be managed by Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL) – passengers are to mail-in the self-collected RT-PCR tests, which are then processed at an ADL facility in San Antonio, TX.
The testing kit consists of a nasal swab, plastic tube, and detailed instructions on how to self-administer the test. Travelers are advised to conduct the test 72 hours before departure – you must order a testing kit in advance to guarantee enough time for delivery. Results will be sent via email within 24-48 hours of mailing in your kit. Despite offering free COVID testing on other routes, passengers with United will need to pay $119 for the test.
The importance of COVID testing on flights
While some passengers may balk at the $119 fee per test, there is no denying the effectiveness of COVID testing before flying. COVID testing is seen as a crucial factor in stimulating recovery in the industry, particularly for international flights. Many airlines, including American Airlines, are expanding their rapid pre-flight testing programs. Similarly, countries across the world are adopting entry conditions that require a negative COVID test.
However, COVID tests alone are unlikely to be sufficient in controlling the virus. Aviation consultancy firm SimpliFlying has stressed the inaccuracy of tests and the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers complicates matters. They recommend additional steps, including better track-and-trace systems, enhanced biosecurity measures, and pre-departure testing within a 24-hour window. Stan Crawford, chief operations officer for ADL, emphasizes the importance of quality testing measures, stating,
“Accurate and reliable testing is not only critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but essential in helping get this virus under control,”
Will pre-flight COVID tests restore your confidence in flying? What other measures would you like to see in place?