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United Airlines Will Provide COVID-19 Tests on Flights to Hawaii

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 9/25/2020 Jessica Puckett
a large body of water with a mountain in the background © Matthew Micah Wright

United Airlines is offering a way for its fliers to avoid a two-week quarantine in the Aloha State.

The airline will offer Hawaii-bound passengers departing from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii two options for taking a COVID-19 test before boarding. When the program launches on October 15, it will make United the first U.S. airline to coordinate tests for its passengers.

The testing services' start date coincides with a shift in Hawaii's travel restrictions that allows any visitor with a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the state and eschew a 14-day quarantine period. The airline says it "worked closely" with authorities in Hawaii to ensure that its test were compliant with the new rules.

Fliers can choose between scheduling a rapid in-person test taken at the airport the same day as their flight or an at-home mail-in option. The rapid test is conducted via nose swab and is administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and its partner Dignity Health—the same provider United has been using to test its flights crews. Passengers can schedule a time for the $250 screening online, and results are available in 15 minutes or less.

The $80 at-home testing kit will be provided by Color. United says it will email fliers booked on SFO—Hawaii routes an invitation to purchase the physician-ordered Color self-collection kit at least 10 days before their scheduled flight. Customers then collect their own samples via nose swab within 72 hours of their departure and return the kit by overnight mail or a Color dropbox in San Francisco. Results are sent by text or email in 24 to 48 hours.

Hawaiian Airlines also announced on Friday that it would be providing a drive-through COVID-19 testing option both in the Bay area and in L.A. The tests will be provided by Worksite Labs and cost $90 for results within 36 hours or $150 for day-of-travel express service. The airline also plans to expand testing availability to additional mainland gateways soon.

Both tests will be open to passengers departing from SFO for any of United's destinations in Hawaii, which currently includes Honolulu, Maui, and Kona. In October, the carrier will also be adding back its route from SFO to Lihue, Kauai. The Chicago-based airline has been focused on resuming significant capacity to Hawaii this summer, and it now offers more flights to the islands than any other major carrier. Next summer, it has plans to launch two new long-haul routes to Hawaii, including Newark to Maui and Chicago to Kona.

Although United's tests are only available on its San Francisco to Hawaii flights, the carrier is looking to grow its screening capability. “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,” Toby Enqvist, United Airlines' chief customer officer, said in a statement on Thursday. Current travel restrictions in many states require any visitors to present a negative COVID-19 test result or agree to isolate for at least two weeks.

United's new tests come as major voices in the aviation industry have made a larger push for widespread pre-flight testing as a way to safely reopen air travel without a quarantine requirement. Earlier this week the International Air Transport Association, which represents nearly 300 airlines around the world, called for large-scale testing to be implemented. “The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure," said IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac in a statement. "This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence."

We're reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.

This story was last published on September 24, 2020. It has since been updated with new information.


Video: United Airlines Offering Pre-Flight COVID Tests At SFO For Hawaii-Bound Flights (CBS Sacramento)

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