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Update: The information below now includes the cost of the tests
United Airlines has just announced that it will be the first US airline to make Covid-19 tests available to customers as it looks to help flyers meet entry conditions put in place by states (like Hawaii) and various nations around the world as they look to protect their populations from the spread of the coronavirus.
Get To Hawaii Easier With United
A little over a week ago, the Governor of Hawaii announced that his state would begin allowing visitors to by-pass the state’s quarantine measures from 15 October if they can provide a negative Covid-19 test that has been taken no earlier than 72-hours before their flight arrives. In light of this, United Airlines has partnered with GoHealth Urgent Care and Color to make Covid-19 testing easy to obtain for customers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii.
From 15 October 2020, United Airlines customers traveling from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii will have the option to take a “rapid test” at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of their trip.
GoHealth Urgent Care will administer the rapid Abbott ID NOW Covid-19 test in partnership with Dignity Health and will be able to provide flyers with their results approximately 15 minutes after the test has been taken. Customers will be able to schedule their visits to the on-site testing facility (located at the international terminal and open between 09:00 to 18:00 PT daily) online and in advance. The cost of the test will be $250.
The mail-in test that will also be offered will be administered by Color, and flyers are being advised to request the test a minimum of 10 days before their trip so that they have the necessary kit to provide their sample within 72 hours of their trip.
United says it will email customers traveling between San Francisco and Hawaii with an invitation to purchase a Color self-collection kit at least 10 days ahead of their departure. Flyers should then collect their own samples at home (no more than 72 hours prior to their departure) and return their test via overnight mail or to a dropbox at SFO. Color will then process the tests at their local, CLIA-certified COVID-19 testing laboratory and return the results via text and/or email within 24-48 hours.
The self-collection kit includes a plastic collection tube, a non-invasive nasal swab, and instructions on how to properly collect a specimen. The cost of the test will be $80.
United Airlines says that it has worked closely with Hawaii officials to ensure that the tests being provided meet the requirements set down by the state of Hawaii so any United customers who test negative on either test will not be subjected to Hawaii’s current 14-day quarantine.
Covid-19 Tests For Other Destinations
For the time being, the Covid-19 testing is limited to SFO and flights to Hawaii but United’s Chief Customer Officer, Toby Enqvist, has been quoted as saying the following:
“We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement our state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying and our hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems.”
No timeline has been given for this rollout.
Covid-19 testing at airports is almost certainly the way to get some semblance of normality back into the travel world and it’s great to see United making it easier for its customers to get the tests they’ll need to take before they’re allowed to enter places like Hawaii without having to self-isolate for 14 days.
The cost of the airport test ($250) may appear steep, but based on what I’ve seen being charged in other nations for tests whose results take days to be returned, this isn’t a terrible price to pay for convenience. The $80 fee for the home kit is more than reasonable and will almost certainly be the test that most people choose to take….and probably not just because it’s the cheaper of the two options.
I suspect that most people would prefer to take the test at home and (hopefully) get the results before they have to leave for the airport. Being sent home (following a positive test) after you’ve gone to all the effort to pack and close up your home and after having paid for transport to the airport won’t be much fun.
United Airlines will be using its partnerships with GoHealth Urgent Care and Color to offer customers two Covid-19 testing options if they’re booked to travel with the airline between San Francisco and Hawaii. The program will open on 15 October and, in time, the airline hopes to roll it out to other airports and for travel to other destinations.