Danny Valentine/Hillsborough County Aviation Authority
For people who are itching to travel, airlines are working hard to offer reassurance. They’re requiring masks, disinfecting airplane cabins between flights and using hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems. Airlines are also touting a recent study that shows that modern aircraft ventilation systems help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and suggests the probability of spreading and contracting the coronavirus on even a packed airline flight is low.
Now they’re offering one more thing in hopes of putting travelers’ minds at ease about flying: testing for the coronavirus at the airport, before you board your flight. The tests are allowing some travelers to reschedule and take vacations they had to cancel or postpone months ago.
Matt Battiata and his wife and four kids had to postpone a dream vacation to Hawaii’s lush landscapes and sparkling beaches back in March, when the island state began requiring every traveler to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. That essentially shut down tourism there. After all, who would want to fly all the way to Hawaii just to be trapped in their hotel room for two weeks?
But the Battiata family finally landed at Honolulu’s airport last week.
“We’re just happy to be able to come and visit,” Battiata said after presenting proof of the family’s negative coronavirus tests to airport workers on the first day Hawaii reopened to those who test negative for the coronavirus.
“We got a rapid test, it took about 30 minutes, you know, a nasal swab test,” Battiata said, adding that “everybody’s clear, yeah, so we’re very excited.”
Airlines are excited, too, to get paying customers back on their planes, so they’re helping facilitate coronavirus testing for travelers heading to certain destinations, like Hawaii. And some are even offering on-the-spot, rapid response testing at the airport before passengers go through security.
United Airlines was first to announce on-the-spot preflight testing, which it offers only at San Francisco’s airport for Hawaii-bound travelers. For results in 15 minutes, it costs you $250, on top of the airfare. There are also less expensive drive-up or clinic testing options, which provide results usually in less than 48 hours.
United and other airlines have worked with Hawaii public health officials to make sure the tests meet the state’s requirements for accuracy and reliability.