Right now, during a pandemic, the idea of getting on an airplane is scary for many, and for good reason. Today, however, one airline announced a new approach to making the prospect of air travel a little less daunting during this time. United Airlines just became the first U.S. airline to launch a COVID-19 testing program for passengers. The program is meant to make it easier for travelers to manage the quarantine requirements and entry conditions of their destinations.
The pilot program will begin on October 15. On that date, those traveling on United from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii will be able to take a rapid test at the airport before their flight. Or, if they prefer, they'll also have the option to do a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of their trip.
Customers who opt for the rapid tests, which will be administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and their partner Dignity Health, should receive test results in approximately 15 minutes. The mail-in test option, administered by Color, should be initiated at least 10 days before a trip and samples should be provided at least 72 hours before a trip. Travelers who test negative will not be subjected to Hawaii's current 14-day quarantine requirement. According to a press release about the testing program, United worked closely with local officials to make this happen.
Though the testing program is being rolled out for flights from San Francisco to Hawaii first, the airline doesn't plan to stop there. "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," says Toby Enqvist, United's chief customer officer. That could mean more people opening to the idea of air travel this holiday season. However, since COVID-19 testing is still new, the accuracy of these tests has yet to be fully evaluated, according to Penn Medicine. You still might want to consider quarantining for at least 72 hours after traveling, and of course, continue to follow other CDC guidelines for coronavirus safety.
Refinery29 in no way encourages unsafe behavior. Check CDC guidelines and local restrictions/rules before making travel decisions.