Travel to Hawaii without a 14-day quarantine is about to be a possibility. All you need is a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of your flight.
This is exciting news, until you realize that you have no clue where to get a COVID-19 test that returns results within 72 hours. Testing in many areas is limited and results can take a week to come back.
To get bodies in airplane seats, many airlines and airports are offering testing options directly to their passengers. They have programs designed to get you to Hawaii with as little stress as possible, and no quarantine.
Five major airlines have pre-travel testing programs in various stages of development. Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, Jet Blue, and American Airlines will be ready to take you to Hawaii when the quarantine exemption starts Oct. 15.
Hawaiian is offering two COVID-19 testing options to their passengers: drive-through and male-in.
Initial rollout of the drive-through sites is limited to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). At those airports, travelers can get results in 36 hours for $90, or pay $150 for day-of-travel express service.
For most Hawaiian passengers, the at-home test is more practical. Test kits are mailed overnight. Samples are collected with assistance from a testing supervisor over a video call. The completed kit is then overnighted to the lab. Results are returned within 24 hours of the lab receiving the sample.
If you were paying attention to that timeline, things will be tight. You must collect the sample within 72 hours of your flight. Overnight mail takes a day. Lab processing can take up to a day. You really need to drop the kit in the mail exactly 3 days before your trip.
The carrier is ramping up service between Hawaii and 10 U.S. West Coast cities by mid-November.
Alaska is building a network of pop-up testing clinics to provide test results within 2 hours for $135.
The first clinic will open in Seattle on Oct 12. Clinics in Portland, San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles will follow in the coming weeks.
United prides themselves as being the first airline to make COVID-19 testing available to customers.
For those traveling out of San Francisco International (SFO), a rapid test at the airport can provide results in about 15 minutes.
Like with Hawaiian Airlines, most United Airlines passengers will find the mail-in test a better option. Be sure to plan in advance. United suggests requesting the test kit at least 10 days before your trip.
JetBlue is offering customers an at-home saliva test administered over video call.
Timing for this service may be a bit tight. They promise results within 48-72 hours of receiving the kit. With overnight shipping, you could spend your first day in Hawaii under quarantine waiting for results.
American’s flights into Hawaii are limited, but they are offering 3 testing options at their Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) hub.
This is a standard mail-in kit administered via video call. Results returned in 48 hours on average.
You can get tested at any CareNow urgent care location.
Onsite Rapid Test
Like United in SFO, American passengers can get test results in minutes at DFW.
American Airlines is putting more focus on opening up travel to the Caribbean. A pre-flight COVID-19 testing program with Jamaica is going into a trial period. They are in talks with other island nations like the Bahamas.
Oakland International Airport (OAK)
The Oakland Airport is rolling out free rapid-result COVID-19 tests to the general public. Passengers should make an appointment ahead of time for testing at the in-terminal facility on the day of travel.
Tampa International Airport (TPA)
The Tampa Airport will offer two types of FDA-approved COVID-19 tests for all departing and arriving passengers within 3 days of travel.
This pilot program will take travelers on a walk-in basis through October.
A PCR COVID-19 test costs $125 and an antigen test costs $57.
Although it could take some planning, COVID-19 testing shouldn’t keep you from your long-overdue trip to the “Aloha” state.