I have previously written that the new trend in the travel industry is that airlines, airports, cruise lines and destinations are all starting to offer pre-travel rapid COVID-19 testing. Travel and medical experts have been preaching about this necessity for a long time since a vaccine seems to be a long way away. I don’t think travelers will truly feel comfortable unless there’s widespread, rapid and accurate COVID-19 testing. Once that happens and cases go down, demand for travel will slowly return.
United Airlines was the first to announce that they were offering testing on flights to Hawaii out of San Francisco International (SFO). The following day, Lufthansa said it will test the practice of offering on-the-spot coronavirus tests before boarding intercontinental flights, in an attempt to find a way to get long-haul passengers flying again. A few hours later, Hawaiian Airlines announced that they’re making it easy for travelers to finally take a long-awaited Hawaii vacation with convenient drive-through COVID-19 tests in select U.S. mainland gateways.
Then American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue and airports like Tampa and Miami started offering testing, as well as destinations like the Bahamas and Jamaica. There are now so many partnerships and offerings, I can barely keep up but there’s one airport that has upped the ante in an attempt to get more business and it might work because travelers will save a lot of money.
The destination that so many travelers wants to go to and haven’t been able to unless they quarantine for 14 days, is Hawaii. The 50th state is one of my favorite places on earth and understandably, they have had strict quarantine rules since they’re so isolated from the rest of the world and have limited resources.
The rules have been so strict that tourism was down a whopping 98% in July from the previous year. But come next week (October 15th), visitors and residents can avoid the mandatory quarantine if they get a COVID-19 test that shows a negative result, within 72 hours of arrival. That’s no easy task because some test results can take as long as 10 days and it is not cheap. That’s why many airlines and destinations are scrambling to partner with health companies so they can guarantee quick results.
United Airlines charges $250 for a rapid COVID-19 test per person at SFO. Oakland International Airport (OAK) which is just 29 miles away across the bay and has nonstop flights to Hawaii, is charging zilch. That’s right, nada. Nothing. Zero. That means a family of four would save $1,000 by getting tested at OAK instead of SFO.
For those who don’t live in the Bay Area, you can choose your flight out of there especially if you’re from a city that doesn’t offer nonstop service to Hawaii. FYI: Alaska, Southwest and Hawaiian Airlines both offer flights to Hawaii out of OAK.
Here’s how it works:
-Testing is done by appointment only (make your appointment here)
-You need to schedule your appointment at least three (3) days prior to your flight
– Testing will be open to the public daily from 9am to 5pm
-The test site is located at 9070 Earhart Road, about two miles from OAK
-Testing is 100% free for all and insurance is not required. If you do not have insurance, they will bill the United States Department of Health and Human services. If you do have insurance, bring your insurance card so they can communicate with your provider who will cover the cost of testing.
–According to ABC KGO, “the results come back in 15 minutes but officials recommend travelers get tested at least one day before their flight,” in case the test result is positive. They won’t turn you away the day of your flight but leave plenty of time before your flight.
What I’m not clear about is if you have to prove you’re flying out of Oakland or be a resident of California in order to use this testing site. Since the testing is done in a parking lot two miles away from the airport, it seems like you could still fly out of SFO since they offer more flights with larger aircraft (especially Hawaiian’s A330). I will update this once I get an answer.
But after President Trump’s positive test and the outbreak at the White House, it just goes to show that being tested regularly isn’t foolproof. Trump was supposed to be in the world’s biggest bubble and he still caught COVID-19 because the virus doesn’t show up right away, he and his staff weren’t wearing masks and a lot can happen in 72 hours.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to end well for Hawaii and sadly, I’m predicting they will close back down within a few weeks of reopening unless every single person wears masks and follows the CDC COVID-19 prevention methods (i.e. wash your hands regularly, keep your distance, stay home if you’re sick, cover your mouth when you sneeze/cough, etc.)
For more information about getting COVID-19 testing at OAK, you can check out their press release here.