US airline United will trial rapid Covid testing for passengers travelling from San Francisco to Hawaii – bypassing quarantine requirements. Sam Ballard reports

United Airlines is to become the first carrier to offer its passengers rapid Covid-19 tests, allowing them to better manage quarantine requirements in their destination.

The new scheme will use an Abbot ID Now Covid-19 test, which gives a result in approximately 15 minutes. It will be first be used on the carrier’s route from San Francisco to Hawaii.

The test will be administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and its partner Dignity Health. It will be available to United passengers on the same day as their flight departs from San Francisco.

Testing will be made available from October 15.

There will also be an option for a mail-in test, where a sample must be provided to Color, another administrator, within 72 hours of departure.

The airline says that it has worked with the Hawaii government so that any resident or tourist who has tested negative will not have to quarantine for 14-days, as is the state’s current requirement.

“Our new Covid testing programme is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” says Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer at United.

“We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and US 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.”

“We are excited about expanding our partnership with United and continuing to support their proactive safety measures,” says 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,” says Caroline Savello, chief commercial officer at Color. “We are proud to partner with United to support the safe and responsible return of travellers to the skies.”

The move is the latest by the aviation industry to get people back into the skies again. British American Business, a trade organisation that represents a number of airlines, has started a campaign to get governments to open up a UK-US travel corridor. Experts estimate that the decline in air travel across the Atlantic will cost the UK economy £11 billion a year.

Air Canada is working with Spartan Bioscience Inc to deliver a portable Covid-19 testing device that will add another “layer of biosafety” for its passengers.

Samuel Elfassy, vice-president of safety at Air Canada, says: ”Air Canada’s strategy for managing Covid-19 has been to develop and apply multiple layers of biosafety measures for customers and employees.

“We believe the availability of a rapid, accurate, portable molecular test for Covid-19 will add yet another effective layer. We are excited by the potential and point of care use cases for the Spartan Cube, and look forward to working with the Spartan team in the weeks and months ahead.”

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