United first airline to launch rapid COVID-19 testing program for travelers

ByStacey Baca WLS logo
Thursday, September 24, 2020
United first airline to launch COVID-19 testing for travelers
The optional test will give travelers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii the ability to avoid a two-week quarantine if they test negative.

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- United Airlines is set to become the first carrier in the U.S. to launch a COVID-19 testing program for travelers.

The hope is to make it easier to manage requirements for entering popular destinations around the globe. They already have the test center set up at the San Francisco International Airport terminal and have been running it on a trial basis.

The rapid coronavirus test is optional for passengers, and will officially be available start using it on Oct. 15 for people headed from San Francisco to Hawaii by appointment only.

The test can be taken the day of your flight and the results should be available in 15 minutes. If a traveler tests negative, they will not be required to quarantine for two weeks in Hawaii.

"Passengers will be able to come to that before they go through security before they board their flight," said Todd Latz, CEO of Go Health Urgent Care, the company administering the rapid tests at San Francisco's airport. "The test includes clinical evaluation and the test itself. And all of that can be done in about 20 minutes."

Hawaii right now requires travelers to quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Hawaii. The governor plans to lift that requirement Oct. 15 if the traveler has a negative COVID-19 test.

United Airlines is set to become the first carrier in the U.S. to launch a COVID-19 testing program for travelers.

"I actually just canceled my trip to Hawaii," said John Seton, a UAL passenger at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. "I had one scheduled two weeks ago."

If customers do not want to do a test at the airport, there is a second option available as well. Customers can purchase a self-collection kit 10 days ahead of time, according to a UAL news release.

"I would love that," said fellow UAL passenger Bonnie Coats. "I think it would be great. I think it would be very helpful."

The test comes as the airline industry tries to lure back customers. In July, Jet Blue kicked off UV cleaning technology in its airplanes which can clean an aircraft in about 10 minutes.

The rapid COVI-19 tests are another way to get travelers back in the air.

A United spokeswoman said it's possible rapid testing might be available at O'Hare International Airport before the end of the year. An exact date to launch such an option has not been determined.

"It would be a staged process," said Latz. "But we're certainly in discussion in respect to multiple geographies across the country. So it's certainly too soon to predict what timing could look like."


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