What You Need to Know About Airline Pre-Flight Covid-19 Testing

One of the biggest hurdles in getting back to travel normalcy is the mandatory 14-day quarantine that some destinations require for incoming visitors.

family in airport with masks

A workaround is starting to emerge, one that can help eliminate the two weeks of downtime and help get you enjoying your trip — proof of a negative Covid test before boarding your flight. To make the process easier, some airlines and airports now have preflight Covid testing available to travelers.

Major airlines – including United, American, Alaska, and Hawaiian – have recently begun to offer discounted at-home tests to passengers with quick turnaround times for results. Some airlines have also opened on-site rapid test centers at certain airport locations where passengers can get their test results in 15 minutes or less.

For now, airlines are offering preflight testing only in specific locations to passengers flying to destinations such as Hawaii, Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands. Moving forward we expect to see rapid adoption in airports across the country.

Here’s what you need to know about airline preflight testing as it stands right now:

United Airlines Covid Testing
United is offering preflight Covid-19 testing to travelers flying to Hawaii from San Francisco.

  • Partnering with GoHealth Urgent Care and Dignity Health, United has opened an on-site rapid testing center at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Tests cost $250 each.
  • Results will be available to customers on the same day as their departing flights – in some cases as soon as 15 minutes.
  • United is also offering a mail-in test option that will be administered by Color. They recommend travelers initiate testing at least 10 days prior to their trip and provide their sample within 72 hours of their trip.

American Airlines Covid Testing
American is rolling out preflight COVID testing for travelers to Hawaii, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and surrounding Caribbean islands.

  • If you’re flying from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Honolulu or Maui, passengers are eligible to take a $129 at-home nasal PCR test administered by LetsGetChecked, an in-person test at a CareNow urgent care location or a preflight rapid test at DFW administered by CareNow.
  • On average, the at-home test offers results within 48 hours upon lab receipt.
  • To avoid quarantine restrictions, American is working on bringing similar rapid testing to its passengers flying to Jamaica, the Bahamas, and surrounding Caribbean islands in the near future.

Alaska Airlines Covid Testing
Alaska Airlines has partnered with Carbon Health to offer rapid Covid-19 testing for all passengers heading to the Hawaiian islands.

  • Testing will be available for all Alaska Airlines guests – of any age over three months old.
  • Rapid testing is available at Carbon Health’s pop-up clinic located in downtown Seattle with priority testing for Alaska Airlines flyers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9am to 7pm PDT.

Hawaiian Airlines Covid Testing
Beginning around Oct. 15, Hawaiian Airlines will partner with Worksite Labs to provide drive-through rapid Covid-19 testing for travelers heading to the Hawaiian Islands.

  • Testing will be available at drive through locations near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
  • Worksite Labs will offer the Droplet Digital PCR shallow nasal swab test for $90 with results within 36 hours, or $150 for “day-of-travel express service” with same-day test results.

Airports across the country are also opening preflight Covid testing centers. The airports that currently have open testing centers include:

Tampa International Airport (TPA), Bradley International Airport (BDL), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and Oakland Airport (OAK).

We expect to see preflight testing continue to increase, expanding to many more airports, routes, and locations. If you have questions on this (and don’t feel bad if you do, we know it’s crazy confusing), feel free to reach out to a member of the CheapAir team – we’re happy to help!

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