WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) – United Airlines is rolling out a rapid COVID test in San Francisco for flights to Hawaii. If it works there, United hopes to offer testing options at its major hubs across the country. The move could potentially allow Americans to travel internationally again.
United employee Eduardo Marquez is getting the rapid COVID test passengers at San Francisco’s airport will soon be taking just hours before departing for Hawaii. “It was simple, fast, not invasive at all,” Marquez said.
The company is the first U.S. airline to roll out a COVID testing program for passengers, starting October 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.
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,” Pagano 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 next month, and already has testing centers for arriving passengers in Munich and Frankfurt.