United on Monday announced that it is expanding its customer COVID-19 testing efforts to include flights out of Houston to select destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Starting for flights departing on December 7, customers originating from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) will have the option to take a self-collected, mail-in test that meets local entry requirements for the following destinations, allowing them to reunite with family or start their vacation immediately:
- Aruba (AUA)
- Belize City, Belize (BZE)
- Guatemala City, Guatemala (GUA)
- Lima, Peru (LIM)
- Nassau, Bahamas (NAS)
- Panama City, Panama (PTY)
- Roatan, Honduras (RTB)
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras (SAP)
- San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL)
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras (TGU)
“Widespread testing is key to unlocking international borders and safely reopening global travel. This is particularly important for our customers in Houston, who rely on United to keep them connected with their family and friends in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United. “We’ll continue to lead the way on testing – United was the first to announce a customer COVID-19 testing program and the first to offer free tests on flights across the Atlantic – and we’ll look at new, innovative ways to make the travel experience even safer.”
The self-collected, mail-in COVID-19 test is $119. The test will be administered by Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL) and processed at their COVID-19 testing laboratory in San Antonio, Texas. United will reach out to customers 14 days ahead of their flights to provide instructions on ordering a test and the testing process. United encourages customers to research the local requirements for further questions specific to their destination. Customers are advised to take the tests 72 hours before departure and should expect to receive results via email within 24-48 hours of mailing in their test.
“As the energy capital of the world and most diverse city in the United States, Houston plays an influential role in linking global economies,” said Sylvester Turner, City of Houston mayor. “As we fight against a second wave of the coronavirus, the private and public sectors, with guidance from public health experts, must work collaboratively and judiciously to reopen the global economy. Although a vaccine would be the ultimate solution, United’s expansion of its customer testing program is a step in the right direction. I commend United for their leadership and forward-thinking.”
ADL’s self-collection kit includes a plastic tube, a nasal swab and instructions on how to properly collect a specimen. ADL’s telehealth system will be available to support customers traveling to countries that require a health care professional to supervise the COVID-19 test. United has worked closely with officials in each country to ensure that any customer – both visitors and nationals returning home – who tests negative will be able to enter the country.
“Accurate and reliable testing is not only critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but essential in helping get this virus under control,” said Stan Crawford, chief operations officer for ADL. “We are invested in United’s commitment to ensuring customers not only meet their destination’s entry requirements but that, when they do travel, they do so in a way that is safer.”
In addition to adding another key element to its layered approach to safety, United has also seen a positive impact on travel demand and significant increases in customer load factors and revenue when testing options are available. For example, after United announced its COVID-19 test for customers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii and allowing them to avoid a 14-day quarantine, the airline saw a nearly 95% increase in passengers compared to the prior two-week period.
Last week, United launched the world’s first free transatlantic COVID-19 testing pilot between Newark Liberty International Airport and London Heathrow Airport. Through this pilot program, all crew members and customers over the age of two on select flights will be required to take a rapid COVID-19 test and provide a negative result in order to take the flight, ensuring that everyone on board over the age of two has tested negative before departure.