United Airlines to make rapid COVID-19 tests available to some passengers

United Airlines will soon offer a COVID-19 pilot testing program for some of its travelers, the first U.S. airline to launch such a program, according to the carrier.

Beginning Oct. 15, customers flying United from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii will have the option to purchase either a rapid test at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of their trip. 

The announcement comes after Hawaii Gov. David Ige said travelers arriving from out of state may bypass a 14-day quarantine requirement if they test negative for COVID-19.

The rapid Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test provides results in approximately 15 minutes and will be available to United customers on the same day as their flight departing from SFO, the company said.

Customers can schedule their on-site test in advance online, which will be located at SFO’s international terminal and administered by GoHealth Urgent Care. The dedicated coronavirus testing area will be available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT daily, the airline said.

testing united

A United Airlines employee is pictured taking a COVID-19 test in a provided image. (Photo credit: United Airlines)

The mail-in test option will be administered by Color, a California-based clinical genetic testing company. The airline said it will email customers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii an invite to purchase the self-collection kit at least 10 days ahead of their departure.

Customers should collect their own samples at home 72 hours prior to their flight and return their test via overnight mail or to a drop box at SFO, United said. Color then processes the tests at their local COVID-19 testing laboratory and returns results via text or email within 24 to 48 hours.  

The self-collection kit includes a plastic collection tube, a nasal swab and instructions on how to properly collect conduct the test.

Passengers will be responsible for payment of either test. 

The rapid test option at the airport will be $250, according to a United spokesperson. The price may lower before the program officially launches.

Color’s at-home COVID-19 test kit will be available to United travelers for $80, plus the cost of shipping.

United said it worked with Hawaii officials “to ensure that any United customer – both visitors and Hawaiian residents returning home – who tests negative on either test would not be subjected to the state's current 14-day quarantine requirement.”

In a statement, United Airlines Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said the carrier will “look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year.”

United currently offers daily flights between San Francisco and Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG) and Kona (KOA). United said it plans to increase service to Hawaii this month, including the resumption of service between San Francisco and Lihue (LIH) and additional flights between San Francisco and Maui and Kona.

RELATED: Visitors to Hawaii will be required to fill out mandatory health questionnaire before entry

But despite the added service, executives across the airline industry have warned of a massive wave of furloughs in the near future without a new round of funding relief from the federal government.

Passenger volume remains down approximately 70%, according to Airlines for America, a trade representing major U.S. airlines. The group added that more than 20% of U.S. fleet remain idle.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.