United Air to Offer $250 Coronavirus Tests on Flights to Hawaii
(Bloomberg) -- United Airlines Holdings Inc. will offer on-the-spot coronavirus testing to customers flying to Hawaii who are willing to pay $250 to avoid a two-week quarantine on arrival.
The carrier hopes the testing regimen can be expanded to help pave the way toward reigniting international travel, which collapsed during the pandemic because of customers’ fears of catching the virus, and restrictions required by many countries for arriving visitors.
United is seizing on Hawaii’s decision to allow travelers to the state to sidestep a 14-day quarantine if they can show a negative test result within 72 hours. Coinciding with the start of the revised state rule on Oct. 15, United has partnered with a clinic to provide on-site testing for Hawaii customers at its San Francisco hub airport. The carrier hopes to expand the practice to other destinations.
“We will learn from this,” said Janet Lamkin, United’s president for California. “The goal is to grow this out of more places.” She said United is seeing signs of “pent-up demand” for Hawaii trips, particularly among Californians.
United officials see the virus screening service for Hawaii as a potential template for creating new “air travel corridors” that will provide enough assurance to governments and fliers to restart international travel.
Other carriers with Hawaii-tourism business, including American Airlines Group Inc., Alaska Air Group Inc. and Hawaiian Holdings Inc., will probably need to provide on-site airport testing to stay competitive as Hawaii rebuilds its battered tourism industry, Lamkin said.
United will direct customers flying to Hawaii from San Francisco to GoHealth Urgent Care for a rapid on-site test at the airport, a service that will cost $250 or more and will provide a result within about 15 minutes.
For those preferring to pay less, United will also refer flyers to Burlingame, California-based Color for an $80 self-collected test. Color recommends that travelers request its test -- which must be ordered by a doctor -- at least 10 days before the trip. Customers return samples taken at home 72 hours before their flight via overnight mail or a drop box at San Francisco airport. Results are provided 24 to 48 hours later.
Travelers can also find their own provider for the virus screening, as long as it’s one of the tests sanctioned by the Hawaiian government.
Without a negative test, visitors to Hawaii must still quarantine upon arrival. Violating the order can lead to a fine up to $5,000 and a year in jail. Hawaii also has deployed 133 cameras at airports to detect people with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).
United uses the GoHealth testing site at the San Francisco airport for its international crews working flights to nations with specific Covid-19 entry requirements. The carrier declined to say what it pays for employee tests.
Among U.S. carriers, United has traditionally flown the most capacity to Hawaii. It’s betting that the new testing option will provide people weary of the pandemic restrictions a chance for a holiday trip to the tropics. Next year, Chicago-based United is adding new nonstop flights from Chicago to Kona and from Newark to Maui. The airline plans to resume flights Oct. 15 to Lihue from San Francisco and provide more service to Maui and Kona.
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