United officially announced the expansion of its COVID-19 testing program to its major hub in Houston. Houston is United’s major hub in the Southern U.S. for flights to Central and South America. The airline’s program will start on 7 December 2020 for flights to select destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Widespread testing is key to unlocking international borders and safely reopening global travel. This is particularly important for our customers in Houston, who rely on United to keep them connected with their family and friends in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer for United.
The carrier will contact passengers at least 14 days, before their flight. Each passenger will receive instructions on requesting a test and how to effectively complete the testing process. Through the airline’s partnership with Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory, United is able to administer the testing kits. Each testing kit features a plastic tube, nasal swab and pamphlet with instructions.
“Accurate and reliable testing is not only critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 but essential in helping get this virus under control,” said Stan Crawford, Chief Operations Officer for ADL. “We are invested in United’s commitment to ensuring customers not only meet their destination’s entry requirements but that, when they do travel, they do so in a way that is safer.”
United’s Potential Competition
As United expands its COVID-19 testing program, the major Star Alliance carrier’s rival, American Airlines and its partner, British Airways – both prominent Oneworld members – recently launched COVID-19 testing trials for specific transatlantic flights.
Meanwhile, the Chicago-based carrier recently required its passengers to complete a test within its program before departure. The requirement is for passengers traveling flying from Newark to London. Newark is United’s major hub on the East Coast for flights to Europe.
Currently, travel demand is extremely low. Thus, airlines must find ways to stay afloat and increase revenue. Through its testing program expansion, from its major hubs, United can compete with American and British Airways. However, while American and British Airways have partnered together, it is still unclear, if this will help long-term.
United will face a similar obstacle through its attempt to attract more passengers and operate more flights while minimizing costs.