MIAMI (CBSMiami) – United is the first U.S. airline to roll out a COVID testing program for passengers.
“It was simple, fast, not invasive at all,” said employee Eduardo Marquez.
Marquez was given the rapid COVID test that passengers at San Francisco’s airport would receive just hours before departing for Hawaii.
United’s testing plan for passengers starts Oct. 15.
Bay-area flyers bound for Hawaii will be given the option to order an at-home testing kit or reserve a time for a rapid test at the airport.
“We really see this as a great opportunity to provide access to testing for our customers, to get them back in the air and traveling as safely as possible,” said Aaron McMillan with United Airlines Operations Policy and Support.
Hawaii has been largely closed to tourists since March.
But in October, with proof of a negative COVID test result within 72 hours prior to arrival, the state will waive its two-week quarantine.
Hawaii officials will verify those results as flights come in.
Richard Pagano flew to Maui Wednesday.
“Because if it got me out of quarantine for two weeks, a lot of extra time back to me and also make sure that I’m not getting my friend sick or anyone who is like in the risk zone sick,” he said.
The rapid testing at SFO is already available to airport and airline employees.
It takes about 20 minutes from arrival to result and initially will cost $250.
The at-home kit will be $80 plus shipping and go to a San Francisco lab for processing. Flyers will have results within 48 hours.
United hopes to eventually expand testing options to its hubs across the country in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
United sees this effort as a major step towards reconnecting the U.S. with international travel.
Airlines are pushing for “air bridges” between major cities like New York and London that would require pre-flight COVID tests for all on board.
American Airlines is looking at offering tests to passengers.
Lufthansa also plans to offer tests to passengers in October, and already has testing centers for arriving passengers in Munich and Frankfurt.
New York’s JFK airport and Newark airport are working with a private company to offer passengers a rapid COVID test before boarding.
A recent Atmosphere research survey found three quarters of flyers support pre-flight COVID testing.