The pilot program will start at the same time that United Airlines begins to increase its services to Hawaii.
“Our new COVID testing program is another way for us to help customers meet destination entry requirements safely and conveniently,” United Airlines Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said in a press release announcing the program on Thursday.
“We will seek to rapidly expand customer testing to other destinations and US airports later this year to supplement our latest cleaning and safety measures, which include mandatory mask policies, antibacterial and electrostatic spraying, and hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems ,”
Passengers of United Airlines can choose to conduct a quick test at the airport before departure or a self-collected mail test, and are responsible for paying the test fee. The result of the quick test takes approximately 15 minutes and costs US$250, and the mailing test costs US$80.
Before the widespread use of vaccines, many in the industry believed that pre-flight testing might be the key to persuading countries to reopen border travel and let the public fly again. Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association urged governments to cooperate with the aviation industry to implement airport test plans.
IATA Director-General Alexandre de Juniac said: “The key to restoring freedom of movement across borders is to conduct systematic COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure.” “This will give the government confidence to open up. Your own national borders, without the need for complex risk models, and this complex risk model will constantly change the rules of travel. Testing all passengers will allow people to travel freely with confidence. This will enable millions of people to work again.”
Although there are test procedures in many international airports (including Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and Italy), there is still no uniform standard for how the procedures are run.
de Juniac said the industry will face several challenges in the process of expanding the testing program, including the development of standard protocols and ensuring universal acceptance of results. He added that there must also be fast, accurate, affordable, and easy to manage tests. German airline Lufthansa (Lufthansa) announced earlier this month that it will provide coronavirus testing for its first and business class passengers starting next month, noting that the lack of testing is the reason why it is not available to all passengers.
However, the survey cited by de Juniac shows that people are willing to be tested, and if they are widely available, they will be more willing to travel.
United Airlines has partnered with two healthcare providers to manage its testing program. The rapid Abbott ID NOW Covid-19 test will provide results within 15 minutes, and the test will be administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and its partner Dignity Health. Passengers will take the test before boarding.
Mailing options will be managed by Color. As part of this option, customers traveling between San Francisco and Hawaii will receive an email from United, giving them the option to purchase the Color self-collection kit ordered by the doctor at least 10 days before departure. Passengers will collect their own samples 72 hours before departure, and return them for testing by overnight mail or return them to the drop box at the airport. Color will process the test and return the results via text and/or email.