Starting on Dec. 28, the Chicago-based carrier will require the test results — from tests taken "no later than 72 hours prior to departure" — of U.S.-bound passengers scheduled to fly out of London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). The testing will apply to travelers leaving for each U.S. destination that United Airlines flies to: Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
The new requirement only applies to U.K.-originating passengers, and not those connecting for U.S.-bound flights at Heathrow.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy commented on United’s announcement Thursday, saying the move would "strengthen existing travel protocols."
"As we continue to experience a second wave of COVID-19 cases, it’s critical that we take any and all precautions to mitigate the potential for further transmission," Murphy said.
"While New Jersey continues to strongly discourage all non-essential travel at this time, if unavoidable, international travelers should adhere to CDC guidance for pre- and post-flight testing and the recommended self-quarantine period."
In requiring U.K.-originating passengers to provide negative COVID-19 tests, United Airlines joins a number of other airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, Delta and British Airways, all of whom announced similar requirements earlier this week following a direct request from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"The strain is so serious that the U.K. has closed down again," Cuomo said Monday. "We are on notice about it. Why don’t we act intelligently for a change? Why don’t we mandate testing before people get on the flight, or hold the flights from the UK now? Many other countries have done this."
Prior to United’s latest requirement of U.K.-originating passengers, the airline had instituted a number of safety and health protocol aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, including mask mandates and requiring passengers to fill out a "ready to fly" checklist acknowledging that they had not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, and do not have related symptoms.
As of Dec. 17, United Airlines also began asking passengers to voluntarily provide several pieces of information in the hopes of speeding up contact-tracing efforts. The program started with arriving international passengers, with plans to expand to all passengers in the following weeks.
Recently, however, a passenger aboard a Monday flight with United Airlines died following a medical emergency on the plane. A coroner’s office later determined the cause of death to be respiratory failure and COVID-19, though that flight originated in Florida, and not the U.K.
This article originally appeared on Fox Business