American Airlines plans to introduce pre-flight testing for COVID-19 on some flights in the Caribbean. The plan will launch with pre-flight testing for travelers going to Jamaica and the Bahamas. Under an agreement between Jamaica and the airline, Jamaica will be the first country impacted with initial testing to begin at Miami International Airport in November of 2020. This initial phase will be applied to residents of Jamaica who are traveling home. For passengers who test negative for the virus before flying with American Airlines, the current quarantine period of 14 days usually applied to Jamaican nationals will be waived. If the pilot program is successful, the airline plans to open its testing protocol to all travelers to Jamaica, including United States citizens.
Audrey Marks, Jamaica’s ambassador to the US, called the American Airlines efforts to ensure the safety of travelers from the US and choosing Jamaica for its pilot program is a timely decision, considering the Jamaican government‘s continuing review in conjunction with the Global Initiative for Health and Safety protocols applying to travel to the island nation. The program could be a “game changer” for tourism and other sectors of Jamaica’s economy that have been negatively affected by COVID-19, Marks noted.
The airline is also working with the Bahamas and other CARICOM countries to implement similar testing programs. A program in the Bahamas is already underway and is expected to launch in November as well. Dionisio D’Aguilar, Bahamian Minister of Tourism and Aviation, welcomed the airline’s commitment to mitigating the spread of the virus with its pre-flight testing program and observed that Miami is a major gateway to his country. He believes the program will bring significant efficiencies to travel while ensuring the health and safety of travelers and residents.
While American Airlines has yet to reveal what type of testing would be involved, it has said there are similar plans for some flights to Hawaii. With flights to Hawaii, one option is on-site rapid testing at the airport by the CareNow company.
The current president of CARICOM Ralph Gonsalves, who is also the Prime Minister of Saint Vicent and the Grenadines, said the organization is pleased with the airline’s initiative in implementing the COVID-19 pre-departure testing plan. The community views the plan as an important step in re-opening markets safely.