United to Launch Free COVID-19 Testing Program on Flights From Newark to London

The pilot program will run from Nov. 16 to Dec. 11.

After finding success in their San Francisco to Hawaii testing program, United Airlines is expanding upon its initiative by launching a testing program for passengers flying from Newark to London.

Starting on Nov. 16, the program will require that passengers flying on select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to London Heathrow undergo a rapid molecular COVID-19 test prior to boarding, the airline announced on a media call on Wednesday.

United plane at Newark Airport
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Testing will take place specifically for passengers on United Flight 14 that goes from the U.S. to London on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 7:15 p.m and will be in partnership with local healthcare company Premise Health. Passengers under the age of 2 are exempt from the test.

The pilot program will run until Dec. 16. Throughout its duration, customers will still be required to abide by the airline's mask mandate as well as maintain social distancing when possible. United will continue to board its planes from back to front and also run the plane at full power while boarding and deplaning to ensure maximum ventilation and air circulation.

Customers on the specific flights will be notified that their trip requires a COVID-19 test and will be provided with a sign-up link to pre-schedule their appointment, preferably 3 hours in advance of the flight. Tests will be conducted in the United lounge near gate C94.

"This is an added peace of mind that people can enjoy while they're on the plane," chief communication officer Josh Earnst said, noting that the program does not exempt passengers from the United Kingdom's two-week quarantine mandate as this specific test is not offered at Heathrow.

"We're hopeful that by proving that this is a program we can implement effectively from an operational perspective, the economic benefits will prompt officials to take a look at the data and make a decision that is rooted in safety, [and] that they will conclude that this is a safe way that they can begin to reopen their economy to international travel," Earnst added.

United will accommodate customers who choose to opt out of in-airport testing by either changing their flight or day of travel.

"We'll be watching this carefully and hopefully, it's something we can extend to other markets," Earnst said. "If it works for us to extend then obviously, we'll do that."

In addition to launching testing options for flights to London and Hawaii, United has also recently added more flight routes to Florida as well as international destinations like Ghana and New Delhi.

Christine Burroni is Travel + Leisure’s Digital News Editor. Find her keeping up with just about everything on Twitter or see what she’s up to in NYC or on her latest trip on Instagram.

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