United Airlines will offer rapid and mail-in COVID-19 testing for travelers on San Francisco-to-Hawaii flights in October, the first carrier in the nation to roll out a passenger testing program.
United officials announced the program Thursday. Beginning Oct. 15, customers flying out of San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii will have the choice of either a rapid, same-day test taken at the terminal or a mail-in test.
The date is significant. Starting Oct. 15, visitors to Hawaii can bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.
But coronavirus cases on the islands increased in recent days. Hawaii state health officials reported 168 new cases Wednesday including two deaths, Hawaii News Now reported. Oahu reported 154 cases, with another 13 on the island of Hawaii. One case was reported on Maui.
The total of cases statewide was 11,689 as of Wednesday. The death total stood at 122, according to a Hawaii News Now report.
Passengers requesting the mail-in option will be asked to take the test at least 10 days before they travel and hand over the sample within 72 hours of their trip.
The same-day test will provide results in about 15 minutes and will be available to United fliers on the same day their flights leave from San Francisco, United officials said in the Thursday announcement.
“Convenient, widespread COVID-19 testing with fast and reliable results is critical to a return to normalcy,” said Caroline Savello, chief commercial officer at Color, the company administering the mail-in tests, said in the Thursday announcement.
United contracted with rapid test administrator GoHealth Urgent Care in July to test international flight crews out of San Francisco International before announcing plans to expand the testing to passengers in October.
The rapid testing at San Francisco International Airport is available at SFO’s international terminal.
The cost of the rapid test is a whopping $250, so this could be $1000 for a family of four; the at-home kit will be $80, CBS News reported.
The testing plan dovetails with the carrier’s plans to bump up service from San Francisco to the Hawaiian islands Oct. 15, including resuming service to Lihue on the island of Kauai and adding flights between SFO and Maui and Kona.
United officials said the Chicago-based carrier plans to expand the program to other cities later this year.
Meanwhile in Florida an official at the Baker County Health Department near Jacksonville told the St. Kitts and Nevis Observer that free PCR tests are available for all travelers and that appointments can be made from Monday to Friday, with results expected in two days.