Warning To Anyone Using BinaxNow Covid Tests To Fly To The U.S.

One popular way to meet the negative Covid-19 test requirement for returning to the U.S. by air is eMed which administers an at-home BinaxNOW self-test that you can pack and take with you on your trip.

However traveler reports suggest that their system is melting down. You aren’t allowed to just take the test yourself, it has to be overseen online. And wait times are stretching into the hours.

Trying to get a “Certified Guide” and get the test done. Been holding online for more than three hours now. Called three times as well and all they say is sorry, high call volume, we’re backed up.

Looks like we will be up all night trying to get an Abbot/Navica guide online to do the tests for flight tomorrow, and from the looks of it, may not happen in which case we are out of pocket for a rapid test at the airport.

There are even reports of wait times stretching as long as six hours.

CDC guidelines instruct airlines only to accept at-home tests that have FDA emergency use authorization and are administered along with a telemedicine video call during which someone authorized by the manufacturer oversees the testing. I suspect most people think this must be a doctor, or other U.S. medical professional, but it’s not. It’s someone in an overseas call center.

Some are speculating, ironically, that Covid-19 test administration may be delayed by Covid-19 lockdowns (in the Philippines) limiting the number of call center employees available.

There are several things to do to make sure you aren’t caught out without a test result to allow you to travel to the U.S.

  1. Start your test three days in advance of travel. If you’re on a non-stop flight to the U.S. (it may need to be closer-in if you are connecting, because the result needs to be three days prior to your actual flight to the U.S.). Give yourself as much time as possible to complete the process in case of any hiccups. That’s not great from a public health standpoint, since the further out from travel you are the less likely it reflects your infection status when you actually fly. But it’s beter for meeting the rules.

  2. Request consult in Spanish. One traveler’s experience is this is a great workaround for long wait times.

    Go to the main Emed website, scroll to the very bottom of the page. Look to the left hand side for language choice of English or Spanish, choose Spanish. Navigate your way through the menus (in spanish). Our queue this morning was about 15-20 min. They still speak fluent english. Successfully tested. Total time 45 min all-in.

  3. Be prepared to pay for another test. Having the test with you and doing it in your room is a great solution in theory. But if you find wait times interminable, remember that it’s a sunk cost. If you need to get home, you may have to go get and pay for another test. Be aware of where those are available at your destination, locally such as through your hotel or a pharmacy or at the airport upon your return (less desirable, leave plenty of time, and of course you could be surprised by the result).

Covid-19 self-tests, to be allowed for travel back to the U.S., must be overseen by a foreign call center employee. But wait times for call center employees may stretch into the hours. Be prepared, and consider a work-around.

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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Comments

  1. Two of us and 11 friends/family did Abbott testing in Romania literally a week ago on different days/times (people had different flights back home). Wait time was seconds to a couple minutes every time. Now English language of the online “specialists” was a problem. If internet connection was not perfect, understanding them was a challenge. One person had to use two test kits – first one was indeterminate. Overall was easy and convenient.

  2. Almost wise to just leave it going during the night in another room and putting a sticky note on the webcam. With an eight hour wait time today that might be what I end up doing.

  3. Gary writes, “Covid-19 self-tests, to be allowed for travel back to the U.S., must be overseen by a foreign call center employee.” Suppose there was a call center located in the United States. Could passengers flying into the U.S. choose to use the call center in the U.S. instead of processing their televisit medical information through a foreign call center?

  4. It sucks. Try to do it from a real computer. Any browser refresh or glitch kills the connection and then you have to rejoin the queue. No way to reconnect to the same agent immediately. And of course, if it happens once you’ve started the test, it’s only valid for 30 minutes. So frustrating.

  5. I used it this weekend from Jamaica in order to return to the US. It took over 6 hours from start to finish. Oddly when I used it from the States, in order to visit Jamaica, the proctor was online in no time. It was incredibly frustrating and wasted half a day of precious vaca time. I would not rely on this if you have other options.

  6. All the way in Kyrgyzstan now and tried doing this home test. Connectivity issues and a long wait time finally had me give up and get a test at a lab. The bigger issue is the US still mandating negative tests for fully vaccinated citizens.

  7. Be advised, Binax is known to yield false negatives for Covid-infected persons who are asymptomatic.

  8. I used this Abbott Binax test from Milan to US last week. Worked perfectly. Wait time was 3 minutes. Highly recommend emed.com Home-test (not Self-test) for US reentry CV testing.

  9. Used it a week and a half ago along with another travel companion and we both got though within seconds.

  10. Our family of 4 went through the process this morning from Aruba to return to the US. At about 30 minutes after logging in the English side and waiting, I was killing time catching up on blogs and ran into this article. We then all changed to the Spanish side and were able to connect in about 25 minutes at most. It’s a touchy process if your internet connection does not work well.

    Thanks for the tip!

    Michael

  11. Thanks for the intel! We will be flying to Italy (Milan) in a month, 8 Sept. then flying back 29 Sept w/transit in AMS back to JFK. We are having the hotel or going to a pharmacy to administer antigen test through our tour service. By some miracle if the CDC lifts the stupid mandate to have a COVID negative test for Americans who are vaccinated that would be smart. After all, it looks like Biden/CDC are going to let Vaccinated European Travelers into the US shortly-I assume they are still bickering if AZ/Sino will be allowed. The American government would have to let vaccinated Americans back in.
    Gary when the Vaccinated Europeans start streaming in. , Do you have any intel on the sunset of the 72 hour antigen/PCR tests for vaccinated Americans going away soon coming back to the states?
    FYI-Intel for anyone not flying direct to Italy or any country for that matter- we have to transit in Madrid before final dest. Milan. Air France/KLM told us only vaccine card for us in transit and to get into Italy or negative test. Wrong! If it were not for Wendy Perrin’s website on country by country requirements we would of been screwed. Madrid needs a QR code to Transit and Milan needs a QR for a European locater. Amsterdam needs a pre filled out BS one page health certificate. Actually all the forms are BS, but it took my husband and I several hours to get all these QR codes w/website issues and confusing instructions for two travelers on the same QR code as in Italy. (BTW- loved you/Brett on Wendy’s zoom Gary many months ago-we are asking for you both for a repeat performance!!

  12. As a clarification, if you are returning to the U.S. via a connecting flight, the test must be within the three days before your first flight of the itinerary – not necessarily the one that lands in the U.S. For example, in returning from Uganda, I got my test on day 0, boarded my flight at Entebbe on day 3, and boarded the connecting flight home from Doha on day 4.

    I just checked the CDC website today and it still says in the FAQ’s:

    “If I have one or more connecting flights to the US, does the 3-day period apply to the first flight or the last one? Do I need to get another test if I have a connecting flight?

    If your itinerary has you arriving to the US via one or more connecting flights, your test can be taken within the 3 days before the departure of the first flight.”

    It seems that those long wait periods for getting through to someone in the BInaxNow test totally defeat the purpose of providing a test that is more conveniently done than finding a local lab.

  13. Why is it that only air entries to US require negative tests? I am coming back from Vancouver to Seattle via Amtrak this month and the CDC doesn’t require negative test for land entry. I’m still thinking about ordering emed to take them with me. Has anyone had experience otherwise where you were requested to produce negative test on land (car/rail) entry to US? Thanks for your feedback in advance.

  14. FYI, the wife and I both took our binaxNow tests this morning 8am UTC and the wait time was less than a minute for both of us. She did hers an hour after me since I wanted to get the results and submit in verifly to validate everything. Total time to login, get consultant, take test, wait 15 minutes for next consultant, get results, upload results to verifly, get verifly approval was less than 40 minutes. I was pleased with how easy the test was.

  15. I tested positive at a VA clinic yesterday . Today I tried BinaxNow and it showed negative.

  16. Has anyone used the test for their 72 hour test before departing the US? I’m going to the UK in October and was wondering if the test has a unique number to enter into the passenger locator form.

  17. Just used them this morning and there was absolutely no wait time. It was fast, effective and easily understandable.

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