Flying in the age of coronavirus comes packed with uncertainty about the health status of fellow travelers. Now, Florida's Tampa International Airport is running a pilot program that offers on-the-spot COVID-19 tests for travelers.
With more than 120 people participating in the optional testing per day, Joe Lopano, Tampa International Airport CEO, said the program is showing promising results.
"We've had some customers who have tested positive and Baycare, the healthcare professionals, have a discussion with that passenger and tell them that they should not continue on their way and passengers have accepted it," Lopano told Cheddar.
The airport offers two tests, the $125 PCR nasal swab, which usually takes 3 to 4 days to yield results, and the $50 rapid Antigen test. The cost of both tests, Lopano said, can be covered by insurance companies if travelers provide a receipt from the airport.
Testing at the airport, according to Lopano, will not have much impact on overall travel time. In fact, those not checking a bag only need to account for an additional 30 minutes as a cushion, he added.
"It's immediate testing. Sometimes you have to wait in a short line. You'll get your results in 15 minutes, so it really is not a very time-consuming function and it's very convenient," Lopano said.
While other airports have implemented testing for specific destinations, Lopano said Tampa is the first to offer widespread testing for passengers on all flights arriving and departing. The pilot program is likely to continue running through the holiday season as the number of participants and customer satisfaction is assessed.
For Lopano, offering a testing site at the airport is not only maintaining passenger safety but can also help revitalize a struggling travel industry that is fighting to get customers off the ground.
"It's a high priority because we need to do whatever we can to create confidence in the travel experience and now that widespread testing is available, the technology is available, what better way to do that than right at the airport," he said.