United Airlines to offer COVID-19 testing, starting from SFO to Hawaii

There’s a new type of line to wait in at the airport: United Airlines said it will begin providing COVID-19 screening tests for passengers on certain routes, allowing those who test negative to skip any quarantine requirements after they land.

The airline plans to start with a program for people traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii. The state currently requires all people arriving from out of state, including residents and tourists, to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival—except those who provide confirmation of a coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours. 

Starting Oct. 15, people headed to the airport will have the option of getting their test done ahead of time or waiting until the last minute—either by completing a self-collected, mail-in test before their trip or taking a rapid COVID-19 test at SFO.

Through a partnership with providers GoHealth Urgent Care and Dignity Health, the United terminal will use Abbott’s rapid ID NOW swab test, which aims to provide a result within 15 minutes on the day of departure. United has previously worked with GoHealth to test its international flight crews.

Meanwhile, the airline has teamed up with Color to supply the mail-in test option for gathering earlier samples. Customers will be prompted to purchase a self-collection kit at least 10 days ahead, with samples either mailed overnight or placed in a drop box at SFO. Results are expected to be returned within 24 to 48 hours. 

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"Convenient, widespread COVID-19 testing with fast and reliable results is critical to a return to normalcy and to accelerate the economic recovery," Color Chief Commercial Officer Caroline Savello said.

United currently runs daily flights between San Francisco and Honolulu, Maui and Kona, and plans to increase service in October with additional flights to Lihue.

"We'll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement our state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying and our hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems," said Toby Enqvist, United’s chief customer officer.