United Airlines teams up with Color to make COVID-19 tests available to passengers

United Airlines is working with health technology and genomics company Color to roll out the first COVID-19 testing program for air travelers.

The airline will offer COVID-19 tests—either rapid tests at the airport or mail-in at home tests prior to travel—to passengers flying from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaiian airports beginning Oct. 15.

The program, which is also supported by GoHealth Urgent Care, is designed to make it easier to manage quarantine and public health requirements at certain destinations. 

To start, United travelers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii will have the option of using Color’s physician-ordered mail-in test. The self-collected tests will provide results in one to two days.

The rapid Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test—administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and its partner Dignity Health—provides results in approximately 15 minutes and will be available to United customers on the same day as their flight departing from San Francisco. Customers can schedule their visits online in advance for the on-site testing facility that is located at the international terminal and will receive their results in approximately 15 minutes, according to the airline.

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The airline worked closely with Hawaii officials to ensure that any United customer—both visitors and Hawaiian residents returning home—who tests negative on either test would not be subjected to the state’s current 14-day quarantine requirement, according to the companies.

Color's COVID-19 testing kit (Color)

United plans to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement its state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying and hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems, said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer at United. 

Color processes the self-collected, mail-in tests tests at local, CLIA-certified COVID-19 testing laboratories and returns results via text and/or email within 24 to 48 hours. Color’s self-collection kit includes a plastic collection tube, a noninvasive nasal swab and instructions on how to properly collect a specimen.

"Convenient, widespread COVID-19 testing with fast and reliable results is critical to a return to normalcy and to accelerate the economic recovery," said Caroline Savello, chief commercial officer at Color, in a statement. 

Precision genomics firm Color has been scaling up its genetic testing capabilities.

The Burlingame, California-based company counts Apple, Verily, Northshore University HealthSystem, the Teamsters Health and Welfare Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and now Sanford Health among its partners.

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The National Institutes of Health's All of Us Research Program awarded Color a $4.6 million grant to act as the initiative’s nationwide genetic counseling service. 

In January, Color scored $75 million in a series D funding round led by T. Rowe Funds and Viking Global Investors.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company pivoted to virus testing and in May received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19 testing technology. It has made COVID-19 tests available to all essential workers in San Francisco.

As of mid-May, Color’s CityTestSF testing sites have collected more than 14,000 samples and are among the highest capacity in the country.