November 23, 2020
American Airlines is expanding its COVID-19 pilot pre-flight testing program in an effort to get more international flyers in the sky. Customers traveling from New York, Los Angeles, or Dallas to London will now be able to participate in the three-test procedure as the carrier tries to determine how much testing is really necessary to keep people safe.
Rhett Workman, the managing director at American Airlines for Europe and Asia-Pacific operations, conceded that asking volunteers to complete multiple stages of testing can seem heavy-handed, but said that the data is needed to prove a larger point.
"Our three-test regime is a bit cumbersome. Again, three tests, multiple days in between, that's asking a lot of our volunteers to go through that test, but we are collecting that data to demonstrate that the first test, the pre-departure test, is appropriate," he said.
When it comes to travel and mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus, Workman believes pre-flight testing is the only way to be sure that the virus isn't boarding passenger flights and could be enough to alleviate fears of spread for travelers.
"We hope the results in this trial will ultimately prove that no quarantine is required," Workman told Cheddar.
The pilot program calls for customers to take a PCR (nasal swab) test at least 72 hours before a scheduled flight. Then another test is administered upon arrival in London, and customers would receive another self-administered test that they can take 72 hours afterward.
While the program looks promising for extended stays, quick trips across the pond are not ideal as coronavirus guidelines are still being observed.
"It doesn't eliminate anyone from the quarantine requirements on the UK end and as it currently stands, that's still a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the UK regardless of any testing result," Workman added.
American Airlines is already running a coronavirus pre-flight testing program for passengers flying from the U.S. to the Caribbean and parts of Latin America, where Workman says the goal of the program is being achieved.
"We've tested, to date, over a quarter of a million customers traveling from Dallas and Miami to around 30 destinations in the Caribbean and northern rim of Latin America and all of those customers arrived with negative results, into those countries," Workman said.