HONOLULU — United Airlines hoped to capitalize on the state’s loosened travel restrictions a day after Gov. David Ige signed the state’s 13th emergency proclamation Wednesday afternoon.
United announced via a press release that they will become the first mainland-based airline to launch a COVID-19 pilot testing program beginning Oct. 15, when visitors will be able to travel to the island without completing a 14-day quarantine.
According to the press release, United would be accepting two tests.
The first, a rapid COVID-19 test developed by a company called GoHealth Urgent and their partner Dignity Health, can provide COVID-19 results in 15 minutes at the airport, and costs $250.
The second test, developed by Color, a federal Food and Drug Administration Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified COVID-19 testing laboratory, is a cheaper ($80), self-collected, mail-in test to be taken within 10 days of scheduled departure. Travelers are required to provide negative COVID-19 results 72 hours before their flights.
But on Friday state officials rejected the cheaper, at-home version.
“Testing at the airport meets all the criteria, and could be a game-changer for Hawai‘i,” the Star Advertiser quoted Lt. Gov. Josh Green in a Friday article. “The mail-in component has not been approved. Perhaps it will be in the future. Right now we are not taking mail-in testing that is not witnessed.”
United Airlines plans to offer service to Hawai‘i on Oct. 15, including flights between San Francisco and Lihu‘e, and additional flights between San Francisco and Maui and Kona.
“We are excited about expanding our partnership with United and continuing to support their proactive safety measures,” CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care Todd Lantz said in a written statement. “Our on-site, real-time testing for passengers is yet another example of GoHealth’s nationwide efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation industry is projected to lose $84.3 billion in revenue and 20.1% of their net profit revenue, according to a traveldailynews.com report.
The report projects in 2021 that losses are expected to cut another $15.8 billion, but revenue is projected to rebound by $598 billion by late 2021.
The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s new President John De Fries hopes the testing will allow people to travel safely and reduce the spread of transmission of COVID-19 through travel.
“The governor’s announcement aligns well with the fact that Hawai‘i’s visitor industry has established protocols,” De Fries said. “This will ensure the safety of our residents and workforce while also welcoming back pre-tested guests safely.”