American will offer COVID tests to travelers flying to US states with restrictions

The pre-flight, at-home test kit can be purchased online starting Wednesday.

December 8, 2020, 8:05 AM

American Airlines will now offer pre-flight, at-home COVID-19 test kits to passengers who are flying to a U.S. state with travel restrictions. American is the first U.S. carrier to expand testing access for domestic destinations.

Through the airline's partnership with LetsGetChecked, passengers will be able to purchase the COVID-19 testing kit online on Dec. 9 for travel starting on Dec. 12 for $129. The test involves a nasal swab and subsequent PCR lab analysis. LetsGetChecked says customers will receive their results within one to two days of their sample reaching the lab.

American is already offering these at-home COVID tests for travelers flying to international destinations that require a negative test upon arrival, like Belize and Chile.

"We’ve made great strides to help open international travel with our testing partners, and we recognize the need for similar domestic travel solutions,” American Airlines Chief Customer Officer Alison Taylor said in a release. “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.”

Travelers wearing protective face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease go through security before boarding a flight at the airport in Denver, Nov. 24, 2020.
Kevin Mohatt/Reuters

In some states, like Connecticut, a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival can exempt a traveler from self-quarantine requirements. But for travelers flying into a state like New York, the pre-flight test is just the first step. They still must quarantine for three days and then obtain a second negative test on day four in order to exit quarantine early.

Other U.S. destinations that have coronavirus related restrictions in place include Alaska, the District of Columbia, Chicago, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and Vermont.

American's decision to expand its pre-flight testing program domestically comes almost two weeks after U.S. airports saw some of their busiest days during the pandemic. Millions of Americans traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday despite pleas from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay home.

A person walks at Reagan National Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Arlington, Va., Nov. 25, 2020.
Hannah Mckay/Reuters, FILE

The CDC is issuing a similar warning against travel for the winter holidays, but travel experts expect to see a similar uptick.

“Despite warnings, Thanksgiving traffic surged more than 30% above the daily average in some states,” INRIX Transportation Analyst Bob Pishue said. “We expect a similar increase around the upcoming winter holidays unless stricter travel restrictions are put in place and followed.”

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is worried that Christmas could be worse than Thanksgiving in terms of potential spread because Christmas is a longer holiday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a briefing by the White House coronavirus task force in Washington, Nov. 19, 2020.
Leah Millis/Reuters

“I think it can be even more of a challenge than what we saw with Thanksgiving,” Fauci said on CNN Monday. “So I hope that people realize that and understand that as difficult as this is, nobody wants to modify, if not, essentially shut down, their holiday season.”

According to data from travel itinerary app TripIt, short stays of three days or less over the Christmas holiday were down 15% from last year, while stays of four-seven days increased 21% year-over-year.