United Airlines today announced a Covid-19 testing pilot programme for customers. From 16 November through 11 December, the airline will offer rapid tests to every passenger aged over two years old and to crew members onboard select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR) free of charge. Anyone who does not wish to be tested will be placed on another flight, guaranteeing everyone on board other than children under two will have tested negative before departure.
A layered approach to safety
"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. "Through this pilot programme, we'll guarantee that everyone onboard 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."
A positive impact on travel demand
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 or duplicative travel restrictions. United has seen a positive impact on travel demand and significant increases in customer load factors and revenue when testing options are available.
United was the first airline to announce optional pre-flight Covid-19 testing for customers. Earlier this month, the airline 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 and enjoy their time on the islands sooner.
Just last week, United participated in a successful 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.