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United Continental : offers free COVID-19 tests on flights between NYC area, London

10/29/2020 | 09:06am

United Airlines announced Thursday that it will be the first carrier to provide rapid COVID-19 tests at no cost to travelers aboard certain trans-Atlantic flights to London next month.

United said the testing will be available to passengers flying between Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to London Heathrow. The pilot program will run between Nov. 16 and Dec.11 for all travelers at least 2 years old.

United said passengers who don't want to be tested will be rebooked for another flight, an effort to guarantee that all travelers on the COVID-19 test flights will have negative results before making the trans-Atlantic trip.

"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 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, adding another element to our layered approach to safety. United will continue to lead on testing, while at the same time exploring new solutions."

Enqvist added that the tests will allow United to provide the "safest travel experience possible."

Multiple carriers have signaled that they're moving toward the preflight testing model as an alternative to quarantine and travel restrictions.

"There are alternatives to quarantines, such as testing and screening of passengers at or ahead of departure, that can significantly reduce the risk of importation of COVID-19, and may actually be more effective due to the difficulties [with enforcement]," a trade union group, which represents aviation companies like Boeing and American Airlines, said last week in a letter to the Trump administration.

United began selling COVID-19 tests earlier this month for passengers traveling between San Francisco and Hawaii.

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