En español | Tampa International Airport began offering COVID-19 testing to all travelers this week, the first U.S.-based airport to offer a pilot program with two types of FDA-approved COVID-19 tests. The tests are available to all departing and arriving passengers, regardless of gate locations, which airlines they are booked on or their final destinations. The pilot program, in partnership with BayCare Health System, is open to all ticketed passengers who are flying or have flown within three days and can show proof of travel.
"As a gateway to the West Coast of Florida with a growing market for international travel, Tampa International Airport has a responsibility to explore safe, rapid and affordable ways to keep our travelers, their destinations and our community as safe and healthy as possible,” airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a news release.
Tampa's COVID-19 testing pilot program began Oct. 1 and is offered on a walk-in basis through Oct. 31. Testing is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., before security checkpoints inside the Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle.
Travelers may choose between the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test ($125) and the rapid antigen test ($57). PCR nasal swab test results are more accurate and are broadly accepted domestically and internationally. If PCR test results are required in passengers’ destinations, it is recommended that travelers take the test three days before departure; results are expected within 48 hours.
The rapid antigen test is more accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms and can offer same-day reassurance for arriving or departing travelers; results are available within 15 minutes.
Alexandra Bouzas was about to board her flight to Newark Thursday morning when she stopped by the Tampa airport's COVID-19 testing site. A friend she was going to visit in New Jersey saw an article about the testing pilot, so Bouzas decided to get the rapid antigen test. After swabbing her nose, she handed off the specimen to a nurse, who notified her 15 minutes later with the result: negative.
"It's peace of mind and just good to know before I visit my friend that I'm COVID-free,” Bouzas said. “She has a 6-month-old baby, and it's better to be safe than sorry."
This summer, XpresCheck, an initiative of XpresSpa, began offering COVID-19 testing to passengers traveling through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. XpresCheck testing sites in the Arrivals Hall, pre-security near the AirTrain at JFK, and at Departures in Terminal B, pre-security at Newark, offer the PCR nasal swab test and a blood antibody test; results of these tests are available within two to three days.
Doug Satzman, CEO of XpresSpa Group, told AARP that XpresCheck will be launching a third test next week at JFK and Newark: a molecular rapid test that will yield results in 15 minutes. Satzman also said that XpresCheck is in talks with a number of airports across the U.S. to provide similar COVID-19 testing options.
Other U.S. airports that are looking into providing onsite COVID-19 testing include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Los Angeles International, Miami International, Orlando International, Portland (Oregon) International, San Diego International and San Francisco International. Philadelphia International is exploring multiple COVID-19 testing opportunities with plans to roll out a rapid testing solution by the new year.
Travel to Hawaii
Beginning Oct. 15, domestic travelers are welcome back to the Hawaiian Islands, so long as they provide a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of departure and upload the results into the state's Safe Travels online platform. If travelers have taken a COVID-19 test and are awaiting results when they arrive in Hawaii, they must quarantine until their results are received. Upon arriving in Hawaii, all passengers will have their temperatures checked and must complete a health questionnaire online before they can leave the airport. Check more testing requirements before visiting Hawaii.
In an effort to make traveling to Hawaii easier for their customers, carriers are offering testing. Among them:
Alaska Airlines will partner with Carbon Health to offer rapid COVID-19 testing at its pop-up clinics across the West Coast, starting Oct. 12 in downtown Seattle. When Alaska Airlines’ nonstop flights to Hawaii resume from Portland, San Jose and San Diego on Nov. 1, Carbon Health plans to add pop-up and full-service clinics for rapid COVID-19 testing in those cities, too.
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Beginning Oct. 15, passengers traveling on United Airlines from San Francisco International to Hawaii can take a rapid COVID-19 test, administered by GoHealth Urgent Care, at the airport on the day of their flight and receive results within 15 minutes. United passengers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii also can initiate a mail-in test, administered by Color, 10 days before their flight and provide samples within 72 hours of their trips. These options are part of United's COVID-19 pilot testing program for travelers.
Also on Oct. 15, American Airlines will begin a preflight COVID-19 testing program, in partnership with LetsGetChecked and CareNow, for passengers traveling to Hawaii from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Three options are available for passengers traveling to Honolulu and Maui: an at-home LetsGetChecked test with results within 48 hours; an in-person test at a CareNow urgent care location; or an onsite rapid test, administered by CareNow, at the airport.
American Airlines is launching a similar COVID-19 testing pilot program for passengers traveling to Jamaica from Miami International Airport beginning this month, and is in talks with the Bahamas and CARICOM, an integrated grouping of 20 Caribbean countries, to launch similar testing programs.