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United to start offering rapid COVID-19 tests for some passengers

The COVID-19 tests are available to passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii, but United says it plans to expand to other destinations and airports this year.

United Airlines announced Thursday that it is launching a pilot program to make COVID-19 tests available for its customers heading to Hawaii. 

Starting Oct. 15, United passengers flying from San Francisco International Airport will be able to take a rapid coronavirus test at the airport, or purchase a mail-in test ahead of their trip. 

Hawaii's governor announced last week that starting Oct. 15, travelers arriving from out of state may bypass a 14-day quarantine requirement if they test negative for COVID-19. 

United said it worked with Hawaii officials to ensure that the airline's pilot program would align with the state's guidelines. United said it's the first U.S. airline to make COVID-19 tests available to its customers. 

“Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer at United. Enqvist added that they're looking to expand customer COVID-19 testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year.

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Airlines have been implementing a number of safety measures and changes to encourage travelers to fly again. Most major airlines now require passengers and workers to wear masks onboard due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In late August, United said it had placed about 150 passengers on its internal no-fly risk for failure to follow mask policies.  

Unlike some other airlines, United resumed filling flights to full capacity over the summer.  

United passengers flying to Hawaii that wish to take a rapid test at the airport will schedule their visits in advance for the on-site testing facility located at the international terminal and will receive their results in approximately 15 minutes. GoHealth Urgent Care’s dedicated COVID-19 testing area will be available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT daily at SFO.

Credit: AP
A United Airlines jetliner lifts off from a runway at Denver International Airport as travellers deal with the effects of the new coronavirus Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)