United Airlines have launched a rapid testing program on some transatlantic flights to alleviate concerns about Covid-19.
From November 16 through December 11, the airline will offer rapid tests to every passenger over 2 years old and to crew members on board for select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR), free of charge. Anyone who does not wish to be tested will be placed on another flight. The rapid tests will guarantee that everyone on board these select flights (other than children under the age of 2) will have tested negative before departure.
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"We believe the ability to provide fast, same-day Covid-19 testing will play a vital role in safely reopening travel around the world and navigating quarantines and travel restrictions, particularly to key international destinations like London," said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United. "Through this pilot program, we'll guarantee that everyone on board has tested negative for Covid-19, adding another element to our layered approach to safety. United will continue to lead on testing, while at the same time exploring new solutions that contribute to the safest travel experience possible."
United will share customer feedback with governments on both sides of the Atlantic to further demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs as an alternative to mandatory quarantines or duplicative travel restrictions. United has seen a positive impact on travel demand and significant increases in both customer load factors and revenue when testing options are available.
United will collaborate with Premise Health, which will administer the rapid tests for the EWR-LHR flight.
In October, the airline started offering customers traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii the option to take a same-day, pre-flight rapid test at the airport or a conveniently located drive-through test, for a fee. The program allows customers with a negative result to bypass Hawaii's mandatory quarantine requirements and enjoy their time on the islands sooner. In the first 10 days, October 15 – 25, the San Francisco to Hawaii flights have seen a nearly 95% increase in passengers compared to the prior two-week period. United believes these positive trends illustrate a strong and pent-up demand for travel, customers' willingness to use pre-flight Covid-19 testing, and the importance of these programs as a means of opening borders.
United recently participated in a successful test program with CommonPass for flights between New York/Newark and London. Customers who chose to participate in the CommonPass program were able to use their mobile phones to document their COVID-19 status and share it with airline staff upon disembarking from the aircraft.
Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were then able to observe travelers’ results, giving both travelers and governments confidence in travelers’ verified COVID-19 status.