United Airlines is set to launch a Covid-19 testing pilot programme next month amid increasing calls for airport testing as an alternative to restrictive quarantine measures.

The trial will run from 16 November to 11 December on select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to London’s Heathrow Airport.

An on-site testing facility will be established at the Newark United Club near Gate C93 to support the initiative.

Under the plan, United Airlines will offer free rapid tests to all crew members and every passenger over two years.

The step is expected to boost customer confidence on air travel as only the passengers who test negative will be allowed to board the flight. It will also help the company to demonstrate the effectiveness of airport testing programmes.

Furthermore, travellers that refuse to undergo the testing will be accommodated on another flight.

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The rapid testing pilot programme will be administered by Premise Health.

United Airlines chief customer officer Toby Enqvist said: “We believe the ability to provide fast, same-day Covid-19 testing will play a vital role in safely reopening travel around the world and navigating quarantines and travel restrictions, particularly to key international destinations like London.

“Through this pilot programme, we’ll guarantee that everyone on board has tested negative for Covid-19, adding another element to our layered approach to safety. United will continue to lead on testing while at the same time exploring new solutions that contribute to the safest travel experience possible.”

Once complete, United Airlines will share customer feedback of this trial with the US and UK Governments.

The move comes after the airline introduced a same-day, pre-flight rapid test for passengers travelling to Hawaii from San Francisco International Airport. It enables travellers with a negative test result to avoid mandatory quarantine requirements in Hawaii.

Earlier this month, the UK established a task force to explore ways of implementing Covid-19 testing for international travellers.