United to offer COVID-19 testing for passengers, starting on Hawaii route

Updated: Sep. 24, 2020 at 5:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - United Airlines will become the first US airline to offer COVID-19 testing for passengers ― just in time for Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program.

Starting on Oct. 15, United passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii will be given the option to take a rapid COVID-19 test at the airport or an at-home, mail-in test before their trip.

The rapid test, which will cost $250, provides results in roughly 15 minutes.

Those opting to take the $80 mail-in test will be asked to request the test 10 days before their trip and submit their sample within 72 hours of their flight.

Officials said the rapid test meets the qualifications of the state’s pre-travel testing program, also set to launch Oct. 15, which allows visitor who test negative for COVID-19 to avoid quarantine.

The mail-in test is still being evaluated.

“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, of United Airlines' operations policy and support division.

United offers more flights to Hawaii than any other major carrier, but it plans to start the testing program with flights from San Francisco.

For months, Hawaii’s tourism industry has been all but shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic with the mandatory quarantine in place. The pre-travel program would essentially reopen tourism, allowing visitors to avoid that quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of landing.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green worked with United officials to creating the testing protocol.

“That nucleic acid amplification test is consistent with what our standards. It’s certified lab approved, so that will be a help and that will mean that that rapid test can get people cleared," Green said.

At the reported cost of $250, the test is pricey ― much more than the roughly $140 tests to be offered by CVS and Walgreens. But it’s also more convenient.

While it’s only available in San Francisco right now, United hopes to expand testing nationwide.

“Having testing in airports is good,” Green said. “Lufthansa is now doing it, other airlines are certainly gonna do it and United has already been doing it for their pilots and crew."

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