MIAMI – United Airlines (UA) will become the first US airline to launch a COVID-19 testing program for passengers. Testing will be available on its San Francisco-Hawaii services.

Starting on October 15, the testing program will allow travelers to order an at-home testing kit. It will cost them US$80 plus shipping to have results within 48 hours. Additionally, passengers could take a rapid test at the airport. The latter will cost US$250 with a waiting time of 20 minutes.

While rapid testing is available for UA employees at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the airline seeks to increase the program reach. Thus, UA expects to launch the COVID-19 passenger testing program in its New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles hubs.

The carrier sees this passenger testing program for passengers as a great opportunity. On this, UA Managing Director of Operations Policy and Support, Aaron McMillan said that it was a way to get people back in the air and traveling as safely as possible.

In July, the airline extended the compulsory face covering policy for passengers. Photo: United Airlines.

Possibility to Operate “Air Bridges”

This first passenger testing program in the US is part of a major strategy to reconnect the country with international travel. With this goal in mind, the “air bridges” are the airline’s new bet to entice travelers to fly from one city to another under an air bubble scheme.

To implement this strategy, major cities would have to request pre-flight COVID-19 tests for all on board. Today, UA took the first of many steps to fly to that viable path. Hawaii will be the initial inbound bubble.

Since March, the island has remained closed for visitors. But the close work between the involved airports and the airline will allow passengers to fly to/from there from October on. With proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to arrival, state officials will waive the mandatory two-week quarantine. In contrast, travelers who arrive in Hawaii without a test result will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Color Genomics, a population health technology company that provides genetic tests and analysis directly to patients founded in 2015, is running the test with SFO and UA.

Regarding the testing program development, Color Genomics CCO Caroline Savello emphasized its impact. Through the test, it will be possible to identify a positive case and place it in isolation alongside other potential infectious individuals. This will enable more chances to avoid a public health emergency situation.

Featured photo: United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER. Photo: BriYYZ.