United Airlines says that it will start a new COVID-19 testing program for passengers starting from October 15. However, it will first make this testing available for passengers traveling only to Hawaii from San Francisco International Airport.
As the airline operates most of its flights to the Hawaii state than any other US airline. That’s why it is first starting the testing from there. However, Aloha State’s new testing requirements start the same day as United’s.
Passengers will have the option of taking a rapid test from Abbott Labs at the airport on the day of their flight. And the results will be available in about 15 minutes or they can use a mail-in test at home prior to travel. However, those passengers who want the testing at-home must request the test kit 10 days prior to travel. And they will have to submit their sample within 72 hours of their flight.
However, by showing the test results on arrival in the islands. Travelers can bypass the state’s strict 14-day quarantine restrictions. Therefore, both testing procedures will allow travelers to satisfy the 72-hour requirement by Hawaii’s new testing program.
If this testing trial goes well. Then the airline will expand it in other cities as well by the end of the year.
“Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” Toby Enqvist, the airline’s chief customer officer, said in a press release. “We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year.”
Aviation Industry’s Plea
However, airlines and trade groups are urging the federal government to launch a federal testing program. And make it mandatory for passengers to wear face masks since this summer. Whereas all major US airlines have their own mask policies instead.
United CEO Scott Kirby was one of the signatories of a July 21 letter that called on government officials in the US. And the European Union to establish a joint COVID-19 testing program to facilitate the return of international air travel, a lucrative sector of the travel economy.
“Given the unquestioned importance of transatlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses. We believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the U.S. and Europe.” The group of airline leaders wrote to Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the U.S. COVID-19 task force, and Ylva Johansson, European commissioner for home affairs. “Nobody will benefit from a prolonged closure of this most indispensable corridor for global aviation.”
Praising The US Airlines
Earlier this month, the U.S. Travel Association trade group praised the airlines for helping lead the effort for testing.
“We applaud the U.S. airlines for their efforts to move this issue forward. And we will continue to advocate for greater federal involvement in COVID-19 testing.” Tori Emerson Barnes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Association, said earlier this month.
“We have long maintained that testing is the key to both safer travel and reopening the economy,” Barnes noted. “More rapid, efficient testing allows for a broader reopening of the travel economy. And will enable organizations to more quickly restore lost jobs and rehire workers. Importantly, a robust testing program would allow America to welcome back international visitors. A segment of travel that has effectively disappeared since the start of the pandemic.”
However, air travel from Europe and the United Kingdom is at a halt. President Trump banned traveling between the two countries in March. Because of increasing cases, the US is still in Europe’s restricted list.