United Airlines is launching the first free transatlantic COVID-19 testing pilot program on flights between the US and the UK. From Nov. 16 through Dec. 11, the airline will offer free of charge rapid tests to every passenger over 2 years old and all crew members on its three-times-weekly Flight 14 from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR).
Any passenger who does not wish to be tested will be booked on another flight. This guarantees everyone on board over the age of two will have tested negative before departure.
The rapid testing trial will be administered by Premise Health. Appointments for the test are required, and customers need to schedule their tests at least three hours before flight time. An on-site testing facility will be located at the Newark United Club near Gate C93.
Customer feedback from this pilot will be shared with governments on both sides of the Atlantic to encourage authorities to adopt testing programs as an alternative to mandatory quarantines or blanket travel restrictions.
Since June, the UK government has imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arriving passengers, a policy that according to critics has virtually shut down the vital New York-London air link. Currently the government is looking a testing on arrival as a means of mitigating the COVID-19 risk, but no action has been taken yet.
United says it has seen positive impact on travel demand and significant increases in customer load factors and revenue when testing options are available. It was the first airline to offer same-day, pre-flight COVID-19 testing for customers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii. Travelers with a negative result are able to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine requirements.
In the first 10 days of the program, from Oct. 15 to 25, the airline says San Francisco to Hawaii flights have seen a nearly 95 percent increase in passengers compared to the prior two-week period.
Last week saw the first successful test of CommonPass, a digital health pass, aboard a United flight between New York/Newark and London. The technology is aimed at providing a standardized, secure platform to share verified COVID-19 health information, enabling safer travel and the reopening of international borders.
“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,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United.
Find more information on the transatlantic testing program here