A growing number of U.S. airports have begun introducing COVID-19 testing options in an effort to help spur domestic and international travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, including to destinations where proof of negative COVID-19 test results are required.
XpresCheck, a brand that was created this summer by airport wellness outfit XpresSpa Group, has installed COVID-19 testing facilities at Newark International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey, and at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York.
The facilities offer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests (also known as the nasal swab tests, which are considered to be more accurate); rapid molecular tests that can produce results within 15 minutes; and antibody tests.
At JFK, the XpresCheck testing facility is located in Terminal 4 (on Level 1 near Central Diner), and at Newark it is located in Terminal B (on Level 3 near the front entrance). The testing services are provided by GABISA Medical, PLLC. It is recommended to make a reservation for a test in advance online, though walk-ins are accepted. On its FAQ page, XpresCheck notes that travelers should check with their health insurance provider to see if COVID-19 testing is covered, but does not provide pricing for the tests.
In early October, the company began construction of an XpresCheck testing facility at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) that is expected to open by November.
Earlir this fall, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that plans were in the works for COVID-19 testing at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) as well as JFK, sites that were going to be set up by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in conjunction with NYC Health + Hospitals, which operates the city’s public hospitals and clinics—but those plans have not yet come to fruition.
“How do you make sure you’re not getting infected from people coming in from other states?” Cuomo said during an August 24 press conference where he briefly discussed the plans. “We’re actually setting up testing sites at our airports to be able to do faster testing of people coming in.”
Travelers coming from select states and territories must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival into New York (or potentially face massive fines). Cuomo has not said whether the testing facilities at the region’s airport would ultimately offer travelers an alternative to the quarantine requirement.
As for international arrivals into the United States, U.S. airports do not currently screen travelers coming from abroad for COVID-19.
COVID-19 testing at SFO
Video: Low-cost carrier Scoot is focused on managing initial onset of virus crisis: CEO (CNBC)
At San Francisco International Airport (SFO), employees have been able to get a rapid-result COVID-19 test at the airport facility since July. But starting on October 15, the service became available to United Airlines passengers heading to Hawaii, where a negative COVID-19 PCR test result is required in order to bypass an otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine.
SFO has partnered with Dignity Health–GoHealth Urgent Care to provide testing both on-site and at nearby Dignity Health locations. The dedicated COVID-19 testing area at SFO is located just outside the international terminal and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Results are ready in less than an hour. The in-person tests for United passengers heading to Hawaii have a $250 price tag (there is also a cheaper $80 mail-in option).
Hawaiian Airlines is also offering pre-flight testing out of SFO through Worksite Lab, a drive-through nasal swab option near the airport. Plans to expand to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and additional airport locations are in the works for pre-flight testing for travel to Hawaii. The test is $90 if you want the results within 36 hours or $150 for day-of-travel express service.
Other U.S. airports that have or will soon have testing facilities
As of October 1, all departing and arriving passengers at Tampa International Airport (TPA) can take a COVID-19 test at the Florida hub. A new testing site that was created in partnership with BayCare Health System is located inside Tampa’s Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle and will offer both the rapid antigen test and PCR test. Any traveler can purchase either test regardless of their airline or destination. The PCR tests cost $125 and the antigen tests cost $57.
Testing services will be offered daily on a walk-in basis between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. This initial pilot program is currently slated to run through October 31, 2020. It will be available to all ticketed passengers who are flying or have flown within three days and can show proof of travel.
Airports in Alaska also offer coronavirus testing as part of that state’s entry requirements. In order to forgo an otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement, travelers can provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result for a test that was taken within 72 hours before their arrival, or they can take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Alaska. (They have to self-quarantine until the results are ready.) The testing is free for Alaska residents, but nonresidents have to pay $250 for a test at the airport. There are testing facilities at Juneau International Airport, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and Ketchikan Airport.
American Airlines will begin offering preflight COVID-19 testing for customers traveling from Miami (MIA) to Jamaica sometime in October and has already made it available to travelers flying from Dallas–Fort Worth (DFW) to Hawaii starting on October 15.
The options for getting tested prior to the Dallas–Hawaii flights are an at-home test kit provided by LetsGetChecked (with results provided within 48 hours on average) that costs $129, including shipping; in-person testing at a CareNow urgent care location in the Dallas area (for a cost of $150); or a $249 rapid-result test administered by CareNow at the DFW airport (inside Terminal D between gates D40 and B1).
For the Miami–Jamaica flights, the initial phase of testing will only be for Jamaican residents traveling home, allowing them to bypass the otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine. If that pilot program is successful, though, the new testing option will be made available to all passengers traveling to Jamaica, American said.
International airports with COVID testing facilities
The U.S. airports that are developing testing facilities join the ranks of several other international hubs that have instituted COVID-19 testing. Germany’s Berlin-Tegel Airport and Frankfurt Airport both have testing facilities set up, Reuters reports.
London’s Heathrow Airport has introduced testing facilities in its T2 and T5 terminals. The hope is that the testing could provide a safe alternative to the 14-day quarantine requirement currently in place for travelers arriving in the United Kingdom from numerous countries and territories, including from the United States. Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye recently stated that the testing could facilitate an opening of passenger travel between London and New York as early as November.
Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, which is the first airport in the world to receive a five-star COVID-19 airport rating from global airline and airport ranking provider Skytrax, recently opened a COVID testing center in partnership with the Italian Red Cross.
Hong Kong Airport provides testing to travelers coming from what the government deems as high-risk destinations, and those travelers must quarantine for 14 days in addition to submitting to the test.
Japan’s Haneda, Narita, and Kansai Airports have integrated rapid-result coronavirus testing into their passenger arrival procedures as well. Japan currently has an inbound travel ban on travelers coming from numerous countries throughout the world. (As of August 30, there were 159 countries on the list, including the United States.)
This story originally appeared on September 2, 2020, and has been updated on October 23, 2020, to include current information.
>> Next: Where Can Americans Travel Right Now?