American Airlines is joining the club and setting up the groundwork for a major COVID-19 preflight testing program. The airline has taken the first step with initial testing programs coming in place as soon as next month and plans to grow based on those results. Here’s what you need to know.
American Airlines is rolling out the framework for a new testing program for passengers. Photo: Getty Images
The new testing program is one of American’s tools it has released for passengers. The other tools are electronic with an upgraded app and an international travel tool where passengers can see any entry restrictions.
The initial testing program for Jamaica
American Airlines reached an agreement with Jamaica to launch an initial testing program out of American’s Latin American hub in Miami International Airport (MIA) starting next month. The initial phase, however, is not for general tourists, but for Jamaican residents traveling back to Jamaica.
A negative COVID-19 test result before flying with American to Jamaica will eliminate the 14-day quarantine requirement for returning Jamaican residents. Once this pilot project is deemed successful, American plans to make this testing available to all passengers heading to Jamaica– including US citizens.
American Airlines is going to launch this initiative out of Miami International Airport (MIA). Photo: Getty Images
Engaging with additional Caribbean countries
American Airlines has also started working with the Bahamas and CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) to launch additional testing programs to give more passengers a chance to get tested and opening up more destinations in the Caribbean.
American Airlines is strong in the Caribbean, where many countries require preflight COVID-19 testing. Photo: Getty Images
The Bahamas is planned to be American’s next international program. This is expected to launch next month with details coming in the future. American is also hoping to roll out something with CARICOM to expand the program to more Caribbean countries.
Hawaii is expected to accept tourists from the mainland United States without quarantines if passengers take a COVID-19 test before arrival and the result comes out negative. Starting October 15th, American will also begin a preflight testing program at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the airline’s largest hub.
Hawaii is expected to reopen for mainland tourists testing negatively for COVID-19 in October. Photo: Getty Images
The DFW testing program is in partnership with LetsGetChecked, CareNow, and the DFW airport. For customers heading to Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG), American will offer three options:
At-home testing from LetsGetChecked, observed by a medical professional via a virtual visit, with results expected, on average, in 48 hours
In-person testing at a CareNow urgent care location
Onsite rapid testing, administered by CareNow, at DFW
No matter which option passengers choose, testing must be completed within 72 hours of the final leg of departure out to Hawaii. Passengers who test negative will be able to avoid the 14-day quarantine.
The DFW-Hawaii testing program gives passengers a lot of flexibility. Photo: Getty Images
Airlines are picking up the mantle of testing
American Airlines is one of many other airlines, including JetBlue, Hawaiian, and United, to pick up the mantle of testing. Many states and countries that are open to Americans require COVID-19 testing before departure. The problem is, however, that not all passengers may have a way or idea of how to get a COVID-19 test before departure.
So airlines, in a bid to get people traveling with them, are rolling out preflight testing programs. American Airlines has not released details of how much testing would cost.
Robert Isom, President of American Airlines, stated the following:
“The pandemic has changed our business in ways we never could have expected, but all the while, the entire American Airlines team has eagerly tackled the challenge of reimagining the way we deliver a safe, healthy and enjoyable travel experience for our customers. Our plan for this initial phase of preflight testing reflects the ingenuity and care our team is putting into rebuilding confidence in air travel, and we view this as an important step in our work to accelerate an eventual recovery of demand.”
The cost of this testing program may prove to be the deciding factor in its success. American will likely offer this as an ancillary option rather than providing it complimentary to passengers. Other things, such as a passenger’s insurance status, may determine the cost of a test.
The goal for American Airlines is to make it easier for people to travel safely and travel with AA. Photo: Getty Images
There is also another dimension to this. If all of these COVID-19 testing programs run by so many airlines are successful, then expect airlines to go back to governments in Europe and South America and other high-profile markets showing their ability to run preflight testing programs in a bid to open travel corridors or fully reopen borders with the expectation or preflight COVID-19 testing. While airlines may turn a profit in the Caribbean, getting some lucrative transatlantic business and potentially leisure travel could prove to be more successful. Granted, business travel is incredibly suppressed thanks to video conferencing technology, though easier access to Europe may lead to some more resumption of business activities internationally.
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