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United launches free mandatory COVID tests on Newark to London flights

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 10/29/2020 Karen Ruiz For Dailymail.com
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United Airlines will begin offering free mandatory COVID-19 tests for passengers traveling from Newark to London next month.

The airline has announced it will begin providing customers with tests on select flights as part of a new trial on pre-departure testing that could potentially revitalize the struggling airline industry during the pandemic.

The four-week pilot program, which will begin on November 16, will require travelers over the age of two to undergo a rapid test near the gate prior to boarding.

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: United Airlines will begin offering free mandatory COVID-19 tests for passengers traveling from Newark to London as part of a new pilot program on pre-departure testing © Provided by Daily Mail United Airlines will begin offering free mandatory COVID-19 tests for passengers traveling from Newark to London as part of a new pilot program on pre-departure testing a person standing next to a bag of luggage: The trial will begin on November 16 and run through December 11 for United Airlines Flight 14 from Newark to London - Heathrow (stock image) © Provided by Daily Mail The trial will begin on November 16 and run through December 11 for United Airlines Flight 14 from Newark to London - Heathrow (stock image)

Customers must be tested at least three hours before departure during their scheduled appointment time and will receive their results in about half an hour.

Anyone who tests positive will not be permitted to board the plane and will be allowed to re-book their flight for free or request a refund.

However, those who test negative will not be able to bypass local COVID-19 health restrictions, meaning they will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival at Heathrow Airport, the airline said. 

The trial program will only run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until December 11, on United Airlines Flight 14. 

Testing will be administered by Premise Health at the United Club near gate C93 at Newark Liberty International Airport, according to the website


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The company said it hopes the trial program will allow for more accessible testing at airports and in turn reopen international travel.

'We have to show that it works,' United Chief Communication Officer Josh Earnest told USA Today in a statement. 

'If we can show that it works, that will only strengthen our case with government officials.' 

a group of people standing around a plane: Customers must be tested at least three hours before departure during their scheduled appointment time and will receive their results in about half an hour © Provided by Daily Mail Customers must be tested at least three hours before departure during their scheduled appointment time and will receive their results in about half an hour a group of people standing in front of a building: The airline hopes the program will lead to more accessible testing at airports and in turn reopen international travel © Provided by Daily Mail The airline hopes the program will lead to more accessible testing at airports and in turn reopen international travel

The company has already seen promising results with a similar trial on its flights from San Francisco to Hawaii, which saw the number of passengers double since the program was launched.

But unlike the international flight, passengers could choose to be tested elsewhere before departure as long as it's approved by the state of Hawaii, or pay $250 for a rapid test onsite.

There is also an option for a drive-thru test at the airport parking lot 48-72 hours in advance for $105. 

Travelers with negative results will also be permitted to bypass the state's required two-week quarantine.

The testing trial comes as the airline industry continues to grapple with billions of dollars in losses thanks to the pandemic.

Combined with earlier losses reported by Delta and United, the four largest US airlines have lost at least $10billion in each of the last two quarters.

It's an unprecedented nosedive that has caused the once highly profitable airlines to forage for billions of dollars in government aid and private borrowing to hang on until more travelers return.

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