United Airlines has announced a pre-flight Covid testing pilot on select flights between New York and London, starting next month.
From 16 November, United will guarantee all passengers over two years of age a rapid Covid test – free of charge – during a near month-long trial, which will run until 11 December.
All members of flight crew will also be required to test negative before departure.
Anyone who does not wish to be tested will be placed on a different flight, meaning everyone aged two and above on United’s trial flights will have tested negative before departure.
United will conduct the trial during a four-week, three-times-weekly Newark-Heathrow flight programme.
“We believe the ability to provide fast, same-day Covid-19 testing will play a vital role in safely reopening travel around the world and navigating quarantines and travel restrictions, particularly to key international destinations like London,” said United’s chief customer officer Toby Enqvist.
“Through this pilot program, we’ll guarantee that essentially everyone on board has tested negative for Covid-19."
United has pledged to share customer feedback from the pilot "with governments on both sides of the Atlantic" to help find an alternative to mandatory quarantines or "duplicative" travel restrictions.
Passengers travelling on United Flight 14, departing Newark for Heathrow at 7.15pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, will be tested as part of the trial.
Tests will be by appointment, with passengers advised to schedule their tests at least three hours before their flight. An on-site testing facility will be located at the Newark United Club near Gate C93.
United started offering pre-flight Covid testing earlier this month, initially to passengers travelling between San Francisco International and Hawaii – allowing them to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine requirements.
It said that during the first 10 days of testing (15-25 October), passenger numbers almost doubled compared to the two weeks prior.
Last week, United also participated in a New York-London test of digital health pass, CommonPass, allowing customers who chose to participate in the programme to seamlessly provide their Covid test results to the relevant authorities.