American Airlines to offer pre-flight COVID testing for domestic travel

By Taylor Dolven

Miami Herald

As the busiest travel season approaches, American Airlines will begin offering pre-flight COVID-19 tests for people flying to states with travel restrictions on Dec. 12 — for a price.

Starting at $129, the PCR tests are available through at-home testing company LetsGetChecked. Passengers order the testing kits online five days before their departures, and return the nasal swab specimens to the company 72 hours before their flights. Results are usually available within 48 hours, American Airlines said in a statement.

Currently 14 states, cities and territories have COVID-related travel restrictions including New York and Puerto Rico. American Airlines is Miami International Airport’s largest carrier.

“We’ve made great strides to help open international travel with our testing partners, and we recognize the need for similar domestic travel solutions,” said Alison Taylor, Chief Customer Officer for American Airlines, in a statement. “As travel requirements continue to quickly evolve, we’re simplifying the research and COVID-19 testing fulfillment process for an overall more seamless travel experience.”

Earlier this year, American Airlines announced it would offer a pre-flight, rapid testing site at Miami International Airport for travelers to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Costa Rica. The company has put that plan on pause as Jamaica and the Bahamas are requiring PCR tests, the more reliable test that better detects asymptomatic infections. American Airlines is still offering rapid testing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

“Those conversations are still continuing.” said spokesperson Rachel Warner. “As testing requirements have evolved we’re having to pivot our approach.”

For international travel, only a handful of governments have approved the LetsGetChecked tests. According to American Airlines, Grenada, St. Lucia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Belize, Chile and the United Kingdom are accepting the test.

Even with a negative PCR test, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning Americans against holiday travel. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. is at an all-time high.

“The best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,” said Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager at a press briefing last week.

If traveling, the CDC recommends getting tested one to three days before travel and again three to five days after travel. The agency recommends that travelers stay home for at least seven days post-travel.