United Airlines plans to offer pre-flight covid-19 testing for some travelers heading to London, the latest effort to get around travel restrictions and concerns about the virus.
From 16 November through 11 December, the airline will offer rapid tests to every passenger aged over two years old and to crew members onboard select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London Heathrow (LHR) free of charge.
Anyone who does not wish to be tested will be placed on another flight, guaranteeing everyone on board other than children under two will have tested negative before departure.
The nasal swab test will produce results in approximately 30 minutes, but the airline warned this was not sufficient for entry to all countries. Passengers who are traveling onwards from the UK may have to take a PCR test, which is analyzed in a lab, it added.
Passengers who have previously tested negative will have to be re-tested.
"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," said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United.
"Through this pilot programme, we'll guarantee that everyone onboard has tested negative for covid-19, adding another element to our layered approach to safety. United will continue to lead on testing, while at the same time exploring new solutions that contribute to the safest travel experience possible."
United said it will share feedback from customers to US and UK government officials and said travel demand has increased when travelers have the option to test for the virus before the flight.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says demand for international flights is down about 90% compared with last year.