United Airlines to become first U.S. carrier to offer COVID-19 tests for travelers

(FILE) Honolulu airport ground crew drape a “lei” over a United Airlines “jumbo jet” upon arrival from San Francisco in November 2017, marking the end of the Boeing 747’s domestic service and giving way to more fuel-efficient passenger aircraft. (Photo by Alfred Acenas, EBC Hawaii Bureau, Eagle News Service)


HONOLULU (Eagle News) – Beginning on October 15, travelers on United Airlines from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to destinations in Hawaii will have the option to either take a rapid test at the airport, or administer a self-test and mail-in the kit ahead of their trip.

United has been collaborating with both GoHealth UrgentCare (gohealthuc.com) and Color (color.com), which specializes in distributed healthcare and clinical testing, in rolling out the pre-travel COVID-19 testing program. Analysts believe that the San Francisco-Hawaii route will serve as a proving ground before United decides to implement the same program elsewhere.

The airline first partnered with GoHealth Urgent Care back in July to test its international flight crews at SFO.

“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. “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.”

The Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test, administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and its partner Dignity Health, will provide results in approximately 15 minutes and will be available to travelers on the same day as their flight departing from SFO.

Meanwhile, the mail-in test option will be administered by Color. Customers who decide to self-test are advised to do so at least 10 days prior to their trip and to provide their sample within 72 hours of their trip.

Customers can schedule their visits online in advance for the on-site testing facility that is 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 daily from 9am to 6pm Pacific Time.

“We are excited about expanding our partnership with United and continuing to support their proactive safety measures,” said Todd Latz, CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care. “Our on-site, real-time testing for passengers is yet another example of GoHealth’s nationwide efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safer return to normal activities and business operations.”

“Convenient, widespread COVID-19 testing with fast and reliable results is critical to a return to normalcy and to accelerate the economic recovery,” said Caroline Savello, Chief Commercial Officer at Color. “We are proud to partner with United to support the safe and responsible return of travelers to the skies.”

The 94-year old carrier currently offers daily service between San Francisco and Honolulu (HNL), Kahului in Maui (OGG) and Kona in Big Island (KOA). The airline also plans to increase service to Hawaii on October 15, including the resumption of service between San Francisco and Lihue in Kauai (LIH).

United has also been working closely with the State of Hawaii, which continues to contain the surge of new coronavirus cases. Governor David Ige recently announced that, also starting on October 15, a pre-travel test will be accepted so that travelers – both visitors and returning residents – can avoid the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival.

(With reports from EBC Hawaii Bureau, Eagle News Service)