United Airlines will start COVID testing all passengers on select flights from Newark to London beginning Nov. 16 though Dec. 7 as part of a pilot program to try and jump start international travel.
Since testing began in mid-October on Hawaii-bound flights, United says it has seen its passenger loads double. The airline is hoping to see similar trends when it begins requiring all passengers on United flight 14, departing Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays to receive a rapid COVID-19 test before boarding.
Passengers must make a reservation for the airline to administer the test free of charge inside the United Club. The test is called the Abbot ID Now. It's a rapid molecular test that's widely used, but experts say its not as accurate as the lab-run PCR test.
Anyone who does not take the test will be denied boarding except children under 2. The test will not lift quarantine restrictions upon arrival in the U.K. However, United is hoping the data from the pilot program will eventually lead to U.K. officials lifting blanket quarantine restrictions.
"We want to prove to the U.S. and U.K. governments and everyone else that's watching that we can operationalize this type of testing to better support the need for travel and opening up these markets again and helping to support the economy," managing director of United Airlines Operation Policy, Aaron McMillan said.
Passengers departing London, will not be offered the same testing service during the pilot program.
"You know parts of Europe are starting to shut down again," McMillan said. "But I think this type of travel program helps reassure people that we're not importing the virus or contributing to its spread."