American Airlines offers at-home COVID tests for US travel

American Airlines is about to start offering at-home COVID-19 tests to domestic fliers in order to help them meet various state travel restriction requirements, the company announced Tuesday. The airline is partnering with direct-to-consumer home testing company LetsGetChecked, which will sell the tests for $129 on top of the cost of travel.

The at-home tests help travelers check off one of the most common travel restrictions that states have implemented, which is a negative test result either before departure or upon arrival. It will also help customers get reliable access to testing, which is still hit-or-miss in many parts of the United States. But there are still holes in the process; it is still possible to get infected on the way to or at the airport, for example.

Different states also have different restrictions. Some states still require travelers to quarantine even with a negative test result. So American Airlines and LetsGetChecked are advising customers to make sure they know what’s required of them when they land. American Airlines previously offered at-home tests for travelers heading to international destinations with restrictions, like the United Kingdom, Belize, and Chile.

LetsGetChecked’s test kits use a nasal swab, so customers will have to take a sample at home and send back through the mail (using UPS) to be run through a Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, test. That whole process takes a few days, so LetsGetChecked says travelers should be sure to order their tests at least five days before their flights.

American Airlines is the first to offer access to at-home testing for domestic flights. But other major airlines and airports have also been trying to introduce testing protocol as part of a way to encourage travelers to return to the skies. Delta Air Lines and Alitalia recently announced they will test passengers multiple times on flights from New York’s JFK airport, New Jersey’s Newark Airport, and Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport to Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

Facing historic losses but buoyed by billions of dollars in government aid, companies like American and Delta have been trying to resurrect the industry after the coronavirus pandemic devastated air travel earlier this year. The number of fliers did dramatically increase over the Thanksgiving holiday despite a sharp increase in case counts and warnings from the Centers for Disease Control, but it’s not yet clear whether people will remain as willing to fly.

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