United Airlines Begins Offering Passenger COVID-19 Tests

United Airlines has begun to offer COVID-19 testing for travelers before flying. The airline is initially launching the pilot program for passengers departing San Francisco bound for Hawaii.

United Airlines
United Airlines is introducing preflight testing for select passengers from San Francisco. Photo: Getty Images

Rapid COVID-19 testing is being touted as a solution to the invisible barriers currently preventing some from traveling. Travel bans have been enacted to try and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, this has stifled both the aviation and tourism industries. Some destinations have been allowing passengers the opportunity to avoid quarantining with a negative COVID-19 test. Now, United Airlines is attempting to make it easier for passengers to secure such tests.

United’s new offering

United Airlines is looking to provide COVID-19 tests for select passengers traveling from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The rapid tests are designed to give passengers their COVID-19 status in the space of 15 minutes. This is great from two perspectives. Firstly, it offers passengers a negative COVID-19 certificate to present on arrival. However, it also allows United to prescreen passengers for COVID-19 before boarding.

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United Airlines has been working with Hawaiian authorities to ensure that the COVID-19 test being administered will be accepted in place of 14 days of quarantine. The airline will be offering two different types of tests, depending on what is desired by the passenger.

United Airlines, COVID-19, Passenger Testing
One option sees passengers tested at the airport before flying. Photo: United Airlines

Firstly, the GoHealth Urgent Care center will be providing same-day tests in the terminal with results available within around a quarter of an hour. There is a second option. Passengers can also mail a self-test to Color. However, this recommends that passengers start testing at least ten days before traveling and provide the sample 72 hours before flying. United didn’t list how much the tests will cost.

United Airlines is operating more flights between Hawaii and the Contiguous United States than any other major carrier, and it is hoping to relaunch more flights later this month.

Commenting on the new options, Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer at United said,

“Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently. We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year…”

United Airlines, COVID-19, Passenger Testing
The other option sees passengers using a mail-in test. Photo: United Airlines

A tool to reopen traveling

COVID-19 tests are being used as a tool by some countries to re-enable travel. They provide an accurate snapshot that a passenger was negative for COVID-19 at a given time. Across the world, airlines are pushing for countries to implement such tests in place of quarantine. Indeed, just this morning, the Chief of IATA called for governments to pay for preflight testing.

While some countries, such as Germany and Dubai, have been very open to COVID-19 testing in place of quarantine, others, such as the United Kingdom, have been reluctant to introduce such exceptions to their policies.

What do you make of United’s testing program? Would you use it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!