USA

United becomes first US airline to offer passengers COVID-19 tests

United Airlines announced Thursday that it will become the first US carrier to offer a rapid-response coronavirus testing program – with passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii having an option to order home kits or be tested at the airport.

Fliers who test negative on either test will not be subjected to the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement, according to United, which plans to roll out the program on Oct. 15. It said it plans to eventually extend the pilot program to other destinations.

They will be able to choose between taking a test from Abbott Labs at the airport on the day of their flights — with results available in about 15 minutes – or use an $80 mail-in test prior to their travel, United said.

Those who prefer the home test, which will be administered by clinical testing company Color, are advised to request the kits 10 days before their departure date and submit their sample within 72 hours of their flight.

“Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer at United, said in a statement.

“We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and US 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,” he added.

The company also teamed up with GoHealth Urgent Care, which will administer the tests along with Dignity Health.

“We are excited about expanding our partnership with United and continuing to support their proactive safety measures,” GoHealth CEO Todd Latz said.

“Our on-site, real-time testing for passengers is yet another example of GoHealth’s nationwide efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safer return to normal activities and business operations,” he added.

The announcement comes as Hawaii is seeing 70 percent fewer flights, 91 percent less TSA checkpoint traffic and 94 percent less travel into the Aloha State compared to usual, according to CNN, which cited numbers from Airlines for America.

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