Could COVID-19 testing be coming to Newark airport with United? Maybe — but it could be a while

When United Airlines announced Thursday it would become the first U.S. airline to launch a COVID-19 pilot testing program for travelers flying out of San Francisco — one that could make it easier for them to manage quarantine requirements and entry conditions of popular destinations around the world — one question quickly came up:

How soon until they are doing it in Newark?

The answer: It’s too soon to tell. But it’s something that is being looked at closely.

United spokesperson Robert Einhorn said San Francisco was the logical starting point, but that the airline will be evaluating whether it makes sense to bring it to its other hubs.

“Due to San Francisco’s flight volume to Hawaii and gateway to many international destinations, it’s the ideal airport to begin COVID-19 customer testing,” Einhorn told ROI-NJ. “Customer testing will be critical to reopen travel from the U.S. to many international destinations, while increasing domestic travel.”

As for Newark Liberty International Airport?

“As we better understand customer testing needs and preferences, our primary goal is to expand our testing program to our hub airports as soon as possible,” Einhorn said. “We don’t have a timeframe for the expansion to EWR or the other hubs just yet, but it is certainly top of mind.”

The program appears to make sense.

United will partner with GoHealth Urgent Care and Color to make testing easy. Starting Oct. 15, customers traveling on United from San Francisco to Hawaii will have the option to take a rapid test at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of their trip.

The rapid Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test — administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and their partner Dignity Health — provides results in approximately 15 minutes and will be available to United customers on the same day as their flight departing, United said.

The mail-in test option will be administered by Color and it is recommended that customers initiate testing at least 10 days prior to their trip and provide their sample within 72 hours of their trip.

Toby Enqvist, United’s chief customer officer, said the testing is another way the airline is adapting to new needs in a new era.

“Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” he said in a release. “We’ll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement our state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying and our hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems.”