United to test all passengers for COVID-19 on select London flights

SAM SWEENEY and GIO BENITEZ
·2 min read

United Airlines will start COVID testing all passengers on select flights from Newark to London beginning Nov. 16 though Dec. 7 as part of a pilot program to try and jump start international travel.

PHOTO: United says customers traveling from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii will have the option to take a rapid test at the airport for $250. (United Airlines)
PHOTO: United says customers traveling from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii will have the option to take a rapid test at the airport for $250. (United Airlines)

Since testing began in mid-October on Hawaii-bound flights, United says it has seen its passenger loads double. The airline is hoping to see similar trends when it begins requiring all passengers on United flight 14, departing Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays to receive a rapid COVID-19 test before boarding.

MORE: US airline launches first COVID-19 testing program of its kind

Passengers must make a reservation for the airline to administer the test free of charge inside the United Club. The test is called the Abbot ID Now. It's a rapid molecular test that's widely used, but experts say its not as accurate as the lab-run PCR test.

PHOTO: United Airlines plans to use Abott's ID NOW COVID-19 rapid test for all passengers on select Newark to London flights from Nov. 16 through Dec. 7. (Abbott)
PHOTO: United Airlines plans to use Abott's ID NOW COVID-19 rapid test for all passengers on select Newark to London flights from Nov. 16 through Dec. 7. (Abbott)

Anyone who does not take the test will be denied boarding except children under 2. The test will not lift quarantine restrictions upon arrival in the U.K. However, United is hoping the data from the pilot program will eventually lead to U.K. officials lifting blanket quarantine restrictions.

MORE: COVID-19 risk on planes 'very low' with proper measures, Harvard review says

"We want to prove to the U.S. and U.K. governments and everyone else that's watching that we can operationalize this type of testing to better support the need for travel and opening up these markets again and helping to support the economy," managing director of United Airlines Operation Policy, Aaron McMillan said.

MORE: Airlines push for coronavirus testing before international flights

Passengers departing London, will not be offered the same testing service during the pilot program.

"You know parts of Europe are starting to shut down again," McMillan said. "But I think this type of travel program helps reassure people that we're not importing the virus or contributing to its spread."

United to test all passengers for COVID-19 on select London flights originally appeared on abcnews.go.com