Hawai’i finally plans to reopen to tourism on October 15, with a catch. Similar to Alaska’s rules, visitors must obtain a COVID test within 72 hours of departure, or enter a 14-day quarantine. While obtaining results quickly remains a challenge, various airlines recently announced options for visitors. Alaska, Hawaiian, and United all plan to offer some level of pre-departure testing for Hawai’i-bound passengers. Late last week, American rolled out COVID testing for Hawaii passengers from its DFW hub; however, American also added Costa Rica to the list of eligible destinations, with options for Miami-based travelers as well.
American COVID Testing for Hawai’i and Costa Rica Passengers
American’s announcement outlines three testing options for passengers headed from DFW to Hawaii and Costa Rica:
- Take an at-home test from LetsGetChecked, with results *usually* returned in 48 hours;
- Appear in person at DFW-area CareNow locations within 72 hours of departure; or
- Take a rapid molecular test, administered by CareNow, at DFW Airport before departure
Passengers traveling from Miami to Costa Rica only have the at-home option for now. American notes, though, that a formal testing regime at MIA is in the works.
The at-home option will be offered for $129 (though you can order your own for $119). American did not disclose pricing for the other two options as of the time of this post. However, CareNow charges $250 to cash pay patients at its clinics. My guess is that’s about where both options end up.
Note that although the airport test is a rapid test, it is NOT the antigen tests you typically see. Like United’s test, this rapid test is an Abbott ID NOW test, which is a molecular test. This is why the test is approved by the state of Hawai’i to avoid quarantine.
American Offers a More Robust Testing Regime, But…
American’s program offers one significant advantage compared to other airlines, at least for DFW-area residents. That’s the option to test at CareNow locations offering COVID-19 tests; with multiple locations throughout the Metroplex, you can test at your convenience a couple of days before departure. However, keep in mind that you might or might not receive results in 72 hours or less. Yes, Hawai’i does allow you to travel without results, though you must quarantine until they are received. However, a positive result means an awfully expensive quarantine, which trip insurance may or may not cover.
The same caveat applies to the home test option. Most home test providers suggest that results usually arrive within 48 hours; labs don’t actually guarantee a turnaround, though. I should also add my own caveat about home testing. Most have strict protocols on when test kits must be shipped back to the lab. Specifically, shipping must occur within 24 hours of sample collection, and cannot occur on weekends. This can create issues depending on the date of your flight. For example, for a Tuesday afternoon departure, you must test Saturday afternoon or later. But with a home test, you can’t ship your sample back until Monday, cutting it really close.
I tried a home test a couple months ago; the lab provided a pre-paid FedEx envelope to return the sample. Though I dropped the sample in a drop box 15 minutes before scheduled last pickup Friday, the driver apparently decided to show up early and not change the “last pickup” sign. Thus, the sample sat in the box all weekend, invalidating the test, and flushing $119 in the process. Word to the wise: don’t use a drop box. Always go to a manned FedEx counter.
Also, not to restate the obvious, but this only helps helps passengers living in or transiting through DFW. If you live elsewhere – or have too short a layover to find the airport testing site – you’ll have to obtain a test on your own. Should you have trouble obtaining quick results in your area, home tests kits might provide an option.
Rapid COVID-19 testing at the airport is long overdue, in my opinion. The ability to obtain a reliable test on the day of departure may finally restore some semblance of confidence to potential travelers. After all, an airport test eliminates the risk of flying without results and getting stuck. Hopefully American (or someone else) can scale-up rapid testing to offer it to far more destinations. Indeed, American hints in its press release that it’s working on extending testing to other Caribbean nations. In the meantime, it’s a start. Though if American can partner with CareNow to offer rapid tests at retail locations, that really would be a game-changer…
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