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These U.S. airlines are offering pre-flight covid-19 testing — for a price

A United Airlines employee takes a coronavirus test. (United Airlines)

As U.S. coronavirus cases rise once again, and as more places require proof of negative tests for travel, covid-19 testing in many areas remains difficult to secure. And it can be harder still if you need a result in a 72-hour time window before your arrival, as many areas are now requiring.

To address that problem, a number of airlines are partnering with health companies to ensure you can take an FDA-approved test, either at home or in-person, and receive the result before you board. It’s a convenient way to avoid a weeks-long quarantine — but it won’t be cheap.

U.S.-based airlines offering coronavirus tests are doing so via mail-in kits or offering in-person testing at select airports. Here are the details on what each one’s coronavirus testing program offers, and how much it will cost you.

United Airlines

In September, United became the first airline to announce testing options for passengers, initially only rolling out these options for routes to Hawaii, which mandates a negative result for visitors. The airline now offers $119 self-collected mail-in PCR tests on flights from George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) in Houston to certain places in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Passengers flying from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii can purchase a day-of-travel rapid test to be completed at the airport, or make an appointment for a drive-through testing site. Travelers with a direct flight from San Francisco to Hawaii who want to secure testing should receive an email from United one week before their scheduled flight, or they can call United directly. United’s in-person rapid tests cost $250; results take about 15 minutes. Drive-up testing at a United facility near the airport takes 20 to 30 minutes and costs $110.

Signs in San Francisco International direct travelers to testing locations. (United Airlines)

American Airlines

In December, American Airlines became the first airline to offer passengers pre-purchased at-home coronavirus tests on any flight to a U.S. destination with covid-19 restrictions in place. The airline previously had partnered with health providers in October for tests on routes to Hawaii, Costa Rica and the Caribbean.

The at-home tests are observed via video call by a LetsGetChecked medical professional, cost $129 and take about 48 hours for results to come back. (LetsGetChecked is recommending travelers order their kit at least five days before travel.) The at-home testing price “includes medical-professional-assisted testing and express shipping both ways,” said Rachel Warner, an American Airlines spokesperson.

In-person testing through American is available only in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where American is based, within 72 hours of departure. It costs $150 in a designated clinic or $249 in the airport.

On its website, American recommends at-home testing for anyone with a connecting flight and “adding 1 hour to your normal check-in time" for passengers doing a rapid test. Depending on your results, the airline says on its website, it will “assist you in rescheduling your flight and issue a trip credit if needed."

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines is offering two types of coronavirus testing options with Hawaii-approved labs for passengers, depending on where they live. Drive-through Worksite Labs appointments available in San Francisco and Los Angeles guarantee a result within 36 hours and cost $90, with a $150 “premium day-of-travel” option also available. Hawaiian more broadly offers at-home mail-in saliva collection kits by Vault Health, which cost $119, including prepaid shipping, and guarantee results within 24 hours of a kit’s arrival at a lab. That at-home process is monitored by a health-care professional via Zoom, as required by the state of Hawaii.


JetBlue has also partnered with Vault Health to offer $119 at-home tests. In late September, JetBlue announced it would offer the at-home mail-in option to all its passengers, with results “provided within 72 hours or less.” Fliers can order a test by providing their name, email address and JetBlue confirmation code on Vault Health’s JetBlue webpage.

“All travelers should thoroughly research their destination or reentry travel requirements then make the best decision for testing based on their travel itinerary to avoid any disruptions,” JetBlue said in a news release about the program. “Properly timing testing to adhere to travel requirements must also be taken into consideration.”

Read more:

Where can Americans travel to in the Caribbean

These 6 countries are accepting American travelers for remote-work trips

The State Dept. lifted its blanket international travel advisory. What does that mean for Americans?

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