United Airlines is offering rapid tests to crew and passengers over the age of two during a four week trial. Olivia Palamountain reports

United Airlines passengers arriving on flight UA14, from Newark Liberty International airport to London Heathrow on November 17, were the first to experience the airline’s transatlantic Covid-19 testing pilot programme.

The airline provided free rapid tests to every passenger over the age of two and all crew members on board, and will continue to do so for four weeks on the three-times-weekly flights between New York/Newark to London Heathrow.

“These flights are a good proof-of-concept for governments around the world that are considering making testing part of the travel experience,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer at United.Covid-19 test centre at Newark AirportHe added: “Expanding our testing efforts with pilot programmes like this one not only helps guarantee passengers onboard test negative for Covid-19, it also adds another element to our layered approach to safety and demonstrates a way to work within quarantines to key international destinations.”

Passengers who are willing to take the rapid Abbott ID Now Covid-19 test, administered by Premise Health, will be directed to a testing facility located at Newark’s United Club lounge, near Gate C93.

Those who opt in will receive information prior to travel so they can schedule an appointment at least three hours before their flight departs.

Even with negative test results, passengers on the trial will be subject to current UK entry requirements, including the 14-day quarantine rule.

This initiative follows United Airlines’ rapid Covid testing trial for passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii while bypassing quarantine (find the full story here) and the CommonPass system now successfully trialled at Heathrow on a flight to New York, paving the way for an internationally-recognised Covid health certificate.Covid-19 test centre at Newark AirportAccording to experts, the sharp decline in air travel between the UK and US will cost the British economy £11 billion this year. A Covid testing regime and air corridor could be the solution, as is being campaigned for by British American Business, a trade organisation that includes the major transatlantic airlines.

United has been ahead of the game throughout the pandemic. It was the first US airline to mandate masks for all passengers and employees, to roll out touch-free check-in for customers with bags, and the first to require passengers to take an online health self-assessment before travelling.

Last month, the airline announced it will apply Zoono Microbe Shield – an Environmental Protection Agency-registered antimicrobial coating that inhibits the growth of microbes – to its entire mainline and express fleet before the end of the year.

Next-generation cleaning methods are being implemented across various airlines, with Delta and Qatar Airways both harnessing the power of LED light sanitisation methods and anti-microbial coatings.

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