United Airlines is set to become the first carrier in the US to offer passengers on-the-spot testing in airports before they board their flights. In a pilot program scheduled to begin on October 15, United passengers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii will be the first to have the option to take a rapid test at the airport, or purchase a self-collected, mail-in test they would need to submit 72 hours ahead of their trip.

The airline has partnered with Abbott Laboratories to offer the on-site PCR (polymerase chain reaction) coronavirus tests. The tests require a nasal swab and results will be ready within 15 minutes. Pricing is still being determined but passengers would have to cover the costs.

United Airlines pre-flight testing.jpg
Test results will be available within 15 minutes ©United Airlines

United plans to increase its services to Hawaii from October 15, just as officials relax quarantine rules to allow out-of-state tourists to enter, provided they present a negative test result. The airline says it worked alongside the Hawaiian government to ensure the test meets state requirements. Those who present a negative test result will be able to bypass quarantine. United's testing is an option, not a requirement and travelers can choose to take the tests from an FDA-approved lab elsewhere or undergo quarantine when they arrive in Hawaii.

United is the first US airline to offer rapid, preflight coronavirus testing. The airline says if the program is successful, it hopes to roll testing out to other airports across the country.

"Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations' entry requirements, safely and conveniently," United Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said in a statement. "We'll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year."

San Francisco International Airport at dusk
United eventually hopes to roll out testing at its hubs in airports across the US ©Karen Desjardin/Getty Images

German airline Lufthansa also announced that it will begin offering on-the-spot coronavirus tests in October to passengers in a bid to get long-haul passengers flying again. While the routes have yet to be announced, the company told the Associated Press it's in contact with "various airpots in North America."

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