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United to offer Hawaii-bound passengers coronavirus tests, a possible blueprint for flights abroad

A United Airlines aircraft

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

United Airlines will offer some Hawaii-bound customers rapid-response coronavirus tests at the airport, an effort to get around quarantine requirements and eventually, open up more destinations to travelers during the pandemic.

Passengers booked from United’s San Francisco hub to Hawaii, one of its most popular destinations, will have that option starting Oct. 15, the airline said Thursday. The date is when Hawaii is scheduled to lift a two-week quarantine requirement on arriving travelers as long as they test negative for Covid-19 no earlier than 72 hours before their departure. Passengers will be responsible for payment. Firm pricing is still in the works but a United spokeswoman said the tests will cost around $250 to start.

The nasal swab tests could later provide an opening for passengers to enter regions that are currently off-limits because of coronavirus concerns. Global airlines this week urged government officials around the world to consider Covid-19 testing for passengers before international flights as an alternative to blanket travel bans that have driven down passenger traffic.

“We are very interested in opening this up to other destinations,” Janet Lamkin, United’s California president, told CNBC.

The results of the molecular tests, which will be administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and Dignity Health, take about 15 minutes. United and Delta Air Lines have rolled out rapid coronavirus tests for their crew members.

The tests at the airport will be conducted prior to security checkpoints. Travelers who test positive for Covid-19 won’t be allowed to fly.

United’s Hawaii customers from San Francisco can also opt for a mail-in test, which would be conducted at home.

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