SAN FRANCISCO INT'L AIRPORT (KPIX 5) - United Airlines has started offering pre-travel coronavirus testing at San Francisco International Airport. The option could have a significant impact on air travel to Hawaii, which is beginning to reopen to tourism.
Starting Thursday, travelers to Hawaii who test negative within 72 hours of flying will no longer have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. United Airlines is the first airline in the nation to help folks meet that requirement.
"For those who want to do more last minute testing, through appointment, you can get those results in 15 minutes," said Janet Lamkin, the airline's California regional president.
Here's how it works. Travelers make an appointment, register at reception desk, speak to an online medical tech and then proceed to an outside sampling tent for testing.
Specimens are loaded into an Abbott Laboratories rapid COVID-19 testing unit. No larger than a toaster, it gives results in 15 minutes.
But what happens if, even with no symptoms, a traveler tests positive for COVID-19?
"Unfortunately, if they do get a positive test, they won't be able to enter the terminal or on the flight," Lamkin said.
SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel said the 15-minute test may change airline travel forever.
"We really look at this as a potential game changer, something that could unlock air travel around the world," Yakel said.
On Thursday, the first flight from SFO to Hawaii under the new rules was nearly full.
The rapid 15-minute test will cost travelers $250.
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