Hawaiian Airlines has become the second U.S. airline to offer a pre-travel COVID-19 test and in doing so is attempting to significantly undercut United Airlines with a $90 drive-through test for results within 36-hours. On Thursday, United unveiled its own testing program but an at-airport test which returns results in as little as 15-minutes currently costs an eye-watering $250.
The decision to offer pre-flight COVID-19 tests comes as Hawaii prepares to reopen to tourists from October 15. Tourists with a negative COVID-19 test certificate will be allowed to skip an otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine but test availability and cost might make it difficult for some travellers to meet that requirement.
Hawaiian will initially provide drive-through PCR testing at sites near Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) international airports for travel to Hawaii. More sites are set to join the testing network in the coming weeks and months.
Partnering with Worksite Labs, the airline will offer the Droplet Digital PCR shallow nasal swab tests which are described by the carrier as the “gold standard” in COVID-19 screening. A test with results within 36 hours of travel will set passengers back just $90 but on-the-day results will cost $150.
Unlike United Airlines there won’t be a rapid at-airport test available. United says it expects the 15-minute test to drop in price by October 15, while a mail-in test kit will cost United passengers as little as $80. Test results must be dated within 72-hours of travel to be eligible for Hawaii’s quarantine skipping requirements.
“As Hawai’i’s leading airline, it is critical to ensure that access to testing does not impede travel to Hawai‘i, for visitors or our kama‘āina (residents),” commented Avi Mannis, senior vice president of marketing at Hawaiian Airlines.
“Our testing option will offer Los Angeles and Bay Area travelers superior value and we look forward to expanding the program and bringing additional choices to more of our gateway cities,” Mannis continued.
Earlier this week, Lufthansa said it also wanted to make rapid at-airport testing available to passengers at key destinations including in the United States. The tests proposed by Lufthansa will either be free or heavily discounted but might only be available to premium Business and First Class passengers initially due to availability.
Over 30 countries offer some form of airport COVID-19 testing and some governments allow passengers with a negative result to either skip quarantine altogether or reduce the length of time they spend self-isolating.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.