Economy

Now at the boarding gate: Coronavirus tests

American Airlines said Tuesday it will offer coronavirus tests to passengers, joining United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways in launching pre-flight tests. Tampa International Airport also said it will offer tests. The tests, which range from rapid airport tests that return results in minutes to tests that take a few days, allow travelers who test negative to bypass or reduce quarantine restrictions at various destinations.

The new tests come as the number of people traveling domestically and internationally continues to drop to record levels (the Transportation Security Administration screened 568,688 people on Tuesday compared to 1,998,980 on the same date a year earlier). It is hoped that tests at airports will calm people worried about flight safety amid the ongoing pandemic.

“Our plan for this initial phase of pre-test reflects the ingenuity and diligence our team puts into rebuilding confidence in air travel and we view this as an important step in our work to accelerate the eventual recovery of the request,” Robert Essom, US President, said in a statement Tuesday.

American will initially test people flying to international destinations, ranging from people flying from Miami International Airport to Jamaica. The travel test to Jamaica will be for residents traveling to their home country; If the passenger test results are negative for the virus, the 14-day quarantine currently in effect for the returning population will be waived. The airline is also working to initiate tests for visitors and residents bound for the Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean. Starting in mid-October, the airline will offer an in-house test that can be done via video call with a medical professional; Personal testing at the CareNow Urgent Care site; And on-site Rapid Test, which is operated by CareNow at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for flights to Hawaii.

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Tampa International Airport is the first airport in the United States to offer the tests and they will be available to travelers on any airline. The tests will be done by BayCare nurses and medical professionals, and travelers have the option to take a PCR test that returns results within 48 hours or a rapid antigen test that returns results within 15 minutes. Before the pandemic, Tampa airport was one of the busiest airports in the country, with more than 22 million passengers in 2019. Passengers who have tickets or who have traveled within three days and can prove they travel can take a nose swab test for $ 125 or an antigen test. For $ 57.

Tests are not mandatory, and ranges from around $ 50 to $ 250.

Airlines and airports desperately need passengers to fly again. The aviation sector faces nearly 40,000 jobs this week, when the financial relief that was part of the CARES stimulus package expires on Oct.1.

“More rapid and efficient tests allow the travel economy to reopen more broadly, and will enable organizations to recover lost jobs and re-hire workers faster” this month, Tory Emerson Barnes, executive vice president for public affairs and policy at the American Travel Association, said. “Most importantly, a robust testing program will allow America to welcome back international visitors, a part of travel that has virtually disappeared since the start of the pandemic.”

Last week, it was announced that United’s pilot program to test passengers and people traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii on the airline would begin in mid-October, when Hawaii would allow out-of-state visitors to skip quarantine if they have a negative test result within 72 hours of travel.

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“Our new Covid testing program is another way in which we help customers meet the requirements for entering their destinations, in safety and comfort,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United, in a statement, adding that the airline is looking to expand testing to other destinations and airports in the states. United.

JetBlue offers in-home saliva testing that is administered through an online video chat with a Vault Health Test Supervisor ensuring customers submit their samples correctly. The airline test is for people who travel to countries that allow people to enter if they have a negative test result. Travelers receive the results within 72 hours.

Airports and airlines have been promoting increased cleaning measures and many have enforced social distancing and wearing masks, all in an effort to keep travelers safe and make them feel confident about flying.

“Providing tests goes hand in hand with other things that major airlines do to make people feel more comfortable about travel experiences,” said Stephen Beck, founder and managing partner of cg42, a management consulting firm that advises airlines.

The tests come a few months after airlines and commercial travel groups required the government to create a federal testing program and directive requiring people to wear masks, but that hasn’t happened, and airlines have created their own policies and regulations. Airlines have also asked European Union and US officials to create a testing program to encourage travel.

Carlos Osiris, head of aviation and Americas consulting at ICF, an airline and aviation consultant, said the move to introduce the tests would not lead to a full recovery in air travel, but was likely to gain traction in the coming months, especially for international flights. Travel.

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“This is really meant for international markets where there are restrictions on the state requiring quarantine or a negative test result,” Osiris said. “I imagine this will be spread more widely when catering for international travel.”

Osiris added that for the testing to work by airlines and airports, governments must agree to accept the validity of each other’s tests, and consistent standards must apply, regardless of where the tests are conducted.

Among other developments in airline virus testing, Hawaiian Airlines will have cross-vehicle testing sites for its passengers in San Francisco and Los Angeles in partnership with Worksite Labs; The tests will cost $ 90 for results within 36 hours, or $ 150 for Express Day Travel Service that begins in mid-October.

In Europe, Italian airline Alitalia is offering tests on flights between Rome and Milan until October. The airline also hopes to conduct testing on flights and at airports for travelers between New York and Italy.


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