United Airlines has announced the word’s first free transatlantic COVID-19 testing pilot programme for customers.
From 16 November through 11 December, the airline will offer rapid tests to every passenger over two years old and crew members on board select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR), free of charge.
According to the airline, passengers won’t be able to board without taking a test. This will guarantee that everyone on board will have tested negative before departure.
Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer, United Airlines, said: “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. Through this pilot programme, we’ll guarantee that everyone on board has tested negative for COVID-19, adding another element to our layered approach to safety. United will continue to lead on testing, while at the same time exploring new solutions that contribute to the safest travel experience possible.”
United will share customer feedback of this pilot with governments on both sides of the Atlantic to further demonstrate the effectiveness of these programmes as an alternative to mandatory quarantines and other travel restrictions.
The airline says that it has seen a positive impact on travel demand and significant increases in customer load factors and revenue when testing options are available.
The pilot has been set up in collaboration with Premise Health, who will administer the rapid testing pilot programme for the EWR-LHR flight. The test will be given to passengers travelling on United Flight 14, departing at 7:15 pm, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Appointments for the test are required, and customers are advised to schedule their tests at least three hours before their flight. An on-site testing facility will be located at the Newark United Club near Gate C93.
United was also the first airline to announce optional pre-flight COVID-19 testing for customers. Earlier this month, it started offering customers travelling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii the option to take a same-day, pre-flight rapid test at the airport or a conveniently located drive-through test, for a fee. The programme allows customers with a negative result to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine requirements. In the first 10 days, between 15 and 25 October, the San Francisco to Hawaii flights have seen a nearly 95% increase in passengers compared to the prior two-week period.
United believes these positive trends illustrate a strong demand for travel, customers’ willingness to use pre-flight COVID-19 testing and the importance of these programmes as a means of opening borders.
Last week, United also participated in a test programme between New York/Newark and London of CommonPass, a digital health pass, aimed at enabling safer travel and the reopening of international borders. Customers who chose to participate in the programme were able to seamlessly provide their COVID-19 test results to relevant governments.