The Testing Wars Have Begun: Oakland Airport Wants To Attract Passengers With Free Rapid Covid Testing

It was only Thursday that United Airlines announced they would offer rapid coronavirus testing at the airport in San Francisco for passengers taking its Hawaii flights. Testing would be available by appointment, with results available in 15 minutes, and the airline hoped the $250 price point would come down in the near future.

Since then Hawaiian Airlines also announced same day airport testing coming for its passengers for $150. The State of Hawaii plans to allow people to enter the state without 14 day quarantine starting October 15, provided they present a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival. United says the state will accept their Abbott rapid tests.

Now Oakland airport is announcing that its Hawaii passengers can get rapid tests for free starting October 15.

  • The testing program opens to airport and airline employees starting October 6, and to passengers October 15.

  • Tests are by appointment and the location of CityHealth Urgent Care, which will perform the tests, is at the airport’s North Field terminal which is on the opposite side of the airport from passenger terminals. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • According to the airport,

    OAK recommends that travelers test the day before. If travelers wait until the day of departure, they should arrive three hours before departure, get tested (have the results in 15 minutes which are electronically sent to the State of Hawaii) and then check-in for their flight.

Non-stop flights to Hawaii from Oakland are offered by Southwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Many passengers can get testing with no out of pocket cost through other providers, using their insurance or public health resources, but at-airport testing makes the travel process more convenient and rapid testing addresses frequent delays of lab results.

For a family of four or five, free tests versus $150 to $250 per person, could serve as a competitive advantage for Oakland airport as a departure point for Hawaii travel versus San Francisco. Nearby San Jose airport says they’re exploring their own testing program, too.

These efforts are so far limited to Hawaii, but don’t expect it to stay that way. In October Tampa is trialing offering testing to all passengers and expects a $125 price point.

Widespread testing give confidence to numerous destinations to allow in passengers without quarantine, and if an airline made testing mandatory to travel they’d give confidence to all passengers on board that everyone had tested negative for the virus – and that could reduce anxiety over travel significantly.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Very much a step in the right direction and months overdue. I have marveled at how slow and spotty governments and companies have been to ramp up testing. And when costs go down, which they will it can simply become a part of the cost of flying, which is a whole lot better than not flying at all, either because of personal fears or the destination’s fears of receiving COVID positive passengers.

  2. It looks like the rapid (15-minute) option is an antigen test. From the Hawaii Department of Transportation site:

    “Pre-travel testing enables travelers to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they are tested within 72 hours before their flight to Hawaii departs with an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) and can show proof of a negative test result.”

    So whatever the airport says, it appears this will not meet the standard required by Hawaii..

  3. I guess they better check with Hawaii first before they “test” a bunch of unsuspecting passengers and send them off to the vacation from hell…

  4. If this airport security trend keeps up, it won’t be long before you’ll literally have to bend over and spread to get on a flight.

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