- United Airlines will trial free rapid COVID-19 test for passengers flying between London and Newark, New Jersey, it announced Thursday.
- United will run the tests on three flights a week for four weeks, starting November 16.
- This makes it the first US airline to offer free testing on flights across the Atlantic.
- The nasal swab tests will produce results in around 30 minutes, and passengers who refuse testing won’t be allowed to board the flights.
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United Airlines will trial free COVID-19 tests for passengers flying from the US to the UK, becoming the first airline to do so, it announced Thursday.
The airline will trial rapid tests for passengers flying on three flights a week between London and Newark, New Jersey over four weeks, from November 16 to December 11.
The tests are available to all on-board crew and customers aged 2 and up who are flying to London Heathrow from Newark Liberty International.
Passengers won’t be able to board without taking a test, the airline said. This guarantees everyone on board, other than young children, will have tested negative before departure.
Passengers who have previously tested negative will have to be re-tested, it added.
The nasal swab test will produce results in approximately 30 minutes, but the airline warned this was not sufficient for entry to all countries. Passengers who are travelling onwards from the UK may have to take a PCR test, which is analysed in a lab, it added.
The airline would share customer feedback with both American and British governments, and hoped this will show the effectiveness of testing as an alternative to mandatory quarantines and travel restrictions, it said.
Travel demand and airline revenues would significantly increase when testing is available, United added.
Premise Health will administer the rapid testing pilot program for three flights a week, totalling 12 flights over the four-week period.
“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,” Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United, said.
On October 15, United became the first US airline to offer optional pre-flight rapid tests. For a fee, passengers travelling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii could take the tests and bypass Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine.
In the first 10 days, the number of passengers flying the route has nearly 95% doubled compared to the prior two weeks.
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