HomeGeneral TravelSan Diego Airport Now Offers On-Site COVID-19 Testing...But Be Careful.

San Diego Airport Now Offers On-Site COVID-19 Testing…But Be Careful.

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Updated to clarify NAAT/PCR Testing

San Diego Airport has partnered with Carbon Health to offer on-site coronavirus testing that looks like it may be useful for people departing to destinations that will require them to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before they travel. There are, however, one or two things you should keep in mind before you book a test.


San Diego Airport’s coronavirus page leads visitors directly to Carbon Health which confirms that the airport’s ‘Travel Clearance’ clinic is located at 2357 Airlane Rd. Per Google Maps, that’s essentially right on top of Delta Cargo:

Click to enlarge

A less detailed map on the Carbon Health webpage confirms the location of the clinic and also confirms that parking is available “Right before Terminal 1, Parking lot behind Delta cargo”.

Key Things To Know

  • Appointments are needed (here)
  • The tests cost a steep $170 per person (details here)
  • Insurance is not accepted
  • Hours of Operations: 7 days a week 09:00 – 19:00
  • The turnaround time for results: Next day by 14:00
  • The testing offered is a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA)


The most important bit of information I can pass on about this testing option is this: While the test offered by Carbon Health at San Diego Airport is in line with the requirements for entry into Alaska and Hawaii, it may not be considered robust enough for a variety of international locations.

To highlight this, the Carbon Health webpage even goes as far as to say the following:

“Carbon Health travel clearance tests are currently configured to meet the state requirements of Alaska and Hawaii. We cannot guarantee our tests and result formats meet international travel requirements.”

Carbon Health offers a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) which is the family of tests that includes the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test which is the test that most countries are now requiring. However, This WHO page (which happens to discuss Malaria) explains that NAAT tests can either be PCR tests, Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) tests, or even Quantitative Nucleic Acid Sequence-Based Amplification (QT-NASBA) tests.

Some counties may accept all three types of NAAT tests, some may accept just two but some may only accept a PCR test. As Carbon Health seems keen to focus on the fact that its test is primarily for people traveling domestically and as it doesn’t say which NAAT test it offers, there has to be some doubt as to how widely accepted the Carbon Health test is internationally.

Also, even if we ignore the potential issues with the acceptance of the Carbon Health test internationally, it may not even be a good option for people looking to travel to Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines has special deals in place for its customers with two San Diego testing providers who charge between $90 (results within 36 hours) and $119 (results within 24 hours), and the airline’s Covid-19 testing page for San Diego offers a further 4 test option suggestions (as well as Carbon Health) that anyone can use and which may offer more economical options.

Bottom Line

San Diego Airport is now offering on-site Covid-19 testing through Carbon Health but, on the whole, I’m underwhelmed by what’s on offer. The test at San Diego Airport is expensive in comparison to what other testing sites in the area are offering, and the test being carried out may not be up to the standards required by a variety of international destinations.

When you consider the options that LAX has been able to provide for its passengers (and it has a lot more passengers to deal with than San Diego), it doesn’t look like San Diego Airport has really made much of an effort. That’s a shame, as Covid testing will be with us for some considerable time and passengers deserve better than this.

Featured image: Lucas Davies

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  1. I think PCR is a type of NAAT. My Carbon health tests definitely state PCR. I was impressed with the turnaround (8 hours) although its not guaranteed. I got a text regarding my results at 2am the next day. Agree its very pricey.

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