MIAMI – United Airlines (UA) is offering free COVID-19 tests to passengers on its Newark-Heathrow flights. Every passenger over the age of 2 will be required to take one prior to boarding. This is the first free COVID-19 testing trial to be offered on a transatlantic route.

“We believe the ability to provide fast, same-day COVID-19 testing will play a vital role in safely reopening travel around the world and navigating quarantines and travel restrictions, particularly to key international destinations like London,” says Toby Enqvist, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at UA. The goal of the trial is to ensure that all passengers test negative for the virus.

The trial will run for four weeks, beginning on November 16 and ending on December 11. Only Flight 14 from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) will be requiring the tests. Any passengers who do not wish to receive a test will be given the option to board a different flight.

United Airlines Airbus A319. Photo: Luke Ayers

Advancements in Safety

In addition to the free COVID-19 tests, UA has been making advancements in protecting the health and safety of its passengers. The airline began its first testing program earlier this month, offering at-home test kits for a fee of US$80 (£62) plus shipping. Passengers would have results within 48 hours.

Rapid testing is available on San Francisco-Hawaii flights. Passengers over the age of 5 years can take a test for US$250 (£194) and have the results within 15 minutes. Negative results will allow passengers to bypass Hawaii’s quarantine requirements.

United also participated in a recent test trial of CommonPass. This digital pass verifies a passenger’s health status as they travel between different countries. Along with the free COVID-19 testing program, CommonPass is being trialed on the Newark-Heathrow route.

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 N29978 at San Francisco International Airport. Photo: © Luca Flores

Testing Process

Premise Health will administer the free tests at the United Club near Gate C93 inside EWR. United is encouraging passengers to check travel requirements prior to their trip. Those who are booked on Flight 14 will be contacted by UA to schedule their tests, as walk-ups will be unavailable. Passengers will receive their results within 30 minutes.

“United will share customer feedback of this pilot with governments on both sides of the Atlantic to further demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs as an alternative to mandatory quarantines or duplicative travel restrictions,” reads a company news release. The airline hopes that its new program will prove successful.

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 in Evo Blue Livery. Photo: Tyler Lorenz