The COVID Tests That Will Get Us Traveling Again
Airlines piloting new programs to almost-open Hawaii
Here’s the elephant in the airport departure lounge: currently, most “open” countries require a negative COVID test completed no more than 72 hours before your flight takes off. But it’s difficult to secure a test that returns results that quickly.
So airlines are trying to kill the elephant.
United Airlines recently announced a pilot program allowing passengers from San Francisco to Hawaii to take a 15-minute PCR test at the airport, or opt for an at-home test that can be mailed in. If successful, they’ll expand the service to other destinations.
Hawaiian Airlines is offering something similar for passengers out of San Francisco and Los Angeles, where you’ll have access to drive-through testing near the airports that’ll run you “$90 for results within 36 hours, or $150 for day-of-travel express service.”
These announcements coincide with that of the Hawaiian government, which after nearly six months of juggling 14-day quarantines, beach closures, stay-at-home orders and several reopening false starts, announced plans to reopen to domestic and international travelers on October 15. The requirement for entry, of course, is a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before departure.
The timing is perfect for the surf industry’s annual North Shore ransacking, the unveiling of the WSL’s new seasonal format at Pipe, and any Rick Kane who just wants to escape the wave pool.
But the broader implication of solving the testing issue is what’s really exciting. With widespread vaccine distribution unlikely until mid-2021, partnering with a reliable, quick turnaround testing facility is a logical bandage for the COVID gash that continues to bleed the travel industry dry. If United and Hawaiian’s pilot’s are successful, it’s likely that more airlines and governments will follow suit, giving us a safer and more seamless way to visit the places we want, and that want us.
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