THE FIRST transatlantic flight with free coronavirus testing to ensure passengers are not carrying the disease is taking off this week.
United Airlines’ Covid-19 testing pilot program launches with the first flight on Monday from Newark Liberty International Airport in the New York City area to London’s Heathrow Airport, at no additional cost to customers.
Rapid Covid-19 tests for all passengers over the age of 2 as well as crew members will be provided on select flights on the route, United Airlines announced on October 29.
Passengers who do not want to take the coronavirus test will be put on other flights to guarantee that all aboard besides very young children have tested negative before takeoff.
The pilot program, set to run through December 11, is also aimed at helping to reopen the once-thriving travel corridor between New York and London.
“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," United Airlines’ chief customer officer Toby Enqvist said in a statement.
"Through this pilot program, we'll guarantee that everyone on board has tested negative for COVID-19,” he said, with the exception of children younger than 2.
Tests will be administered by Premise Health at an on-site facility at the Newark United Club and passengers will be advised to schedule their appointments at least three hours before departure.
The pilot program applies to passengers on United Flight 14, which flies to Heathrow at 7:15pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
United Airlines plans to share customer feedback on the testing with officials in the United States and United Kingdom to show the effectiveness of such a program as opposed to mandatory quarantine rules currently in place.
The British government considers the US a “red country” and arriving Americans are required to quarantine for 14 days.
After President Donald Trump closed America’s borders to the UK and European Union, British travelers could only enter the US if they obtained a special exemption.
If the pilot program proves successful, it could help reopen the travel corridor, which was among the busiest and most profitable before the pandemic.
United Airlines stated in its press release that it has “seen a positive impact on travel demand and significant increases in customer load factors and revenue when testing options are available.”
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