United Airlines to Launch COVID Testing

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In an effort to boost passenger confidence, United Airlines is about to launch an on-the-spot coronavirus testing program. The program will initially be available only to United customers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii.

Testing, Testing

The pilot program will begin on October 15, and will involve rapid tests developed by Abbot Laboratories. Passengers can submit to the test, which provides a COVID-19 diagnosis in 15 minutes, right at the airport. Additionally, United fliers will have the option to self-administer a COVID exam, which they must mail-in within 72 hours of their flight.

United has partnered with the state government of Hawaii, which has adapted strict coronavirus safety measures, and has suffered from a massive drop in tourism during this tumultuous year. Passengers who test negative within 72 hours of their arrival in Hawaii will not be bound by the state’s 14-day mandatory quarantine for new visitors.

As a result of COVID fears and restrictions, both airlines and the Hawaiian Islands have missed out on the tourism that is so instrumental to both. According to Airlines for America, an aviation industry group, airlines have carried 70% fewer flights to Hawaii in the past year. And overall travel to the state is also down, by some 94%.

Off the Ground

As for United, it has, like other airlines, struggled to regain the confidence of passengers. But it hopes that, if the rapid-test program is successful for Hawaii-bound trips, it can expand the program to other flights.

“Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” said United Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist in a statement. “We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year.”

But testing is not the only measure that United is taking to ensure health amid the pandemic. The airline notes that it has also employed “state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying” of airplane interiors, as well as “hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems.”