COVID-19 Testing for Flight Crew
I’m happy to report that the crickets are no longer the only ones chirping in the Bay Area...
Amidst the continually rising US COVID-19 infection rate; many of our favorite international travel destinations are understandably, yet frustratingly still figuring out their stance on allowing ‘high risk’ Americans entry onto their soil. As a result, we are seeing unprecedented lockdowns, mandatory quarantines, and negative COVID-19 test result proof required within 48-72 hours of traveling in some cases.
While we navigate the ever-changing travel requirements, owners and charter clients are looking for opportunities to get out of town (however brief) as trip requests are starting to flicker in and out again. As crew-members, a new responsibility of ours has emerged: securing negative COVID-19 test results within a strict time frame in order to fly.
As a contractor in California, I had some difficulty getting an appointment for a COVID-19 rapid test within the time frame requested by the owner on my last trip. With fingers crossed, I booked appointments with two different testing facilities hoping that I would get my test results back early in order to fly. Both test results were delayed about 6 days as they had to be sent to labs due to there not being enough rapid test supplies to accommodate all of the people who had appointments. Thankfully I got my results back in time for our trip...but just barely.
The uncertainty of whether or not I would be able to get my test done on the right day (two of my appointments were actually cancelled by the provider the day before), worrying about the possibility of the trip dates changing again (as we all know is very common in corporate aviation) and ultimately, would I get my results back in time in order to fly/work...was a lot of stress to deal with.
That is why this week, to hopefully save you some time and stress...I wanted to share some new COVID-19 testing resources that I learned about (along with the two other places that I had been using for testing). These mainly apply to contract crew and smaller flight departments that do not have assistance with test procurement from a corporation which is ideal.
1) Vault: Online order, delivery & at home testing with a doctor virtually. It costs $150 and you do the test at home with results back within 48-72 hours (after the lab receives it). My pilot source for this option said that he's been getting results back normally before 48 hours so I've ordered one to have on hand for my next trip. I like that with this option (also #2, and #3 below) I don't have to scramble to get an appointment for testing when a trip comes up and that I don't have to drive all over town, wait in a long line or risk being exposed to other potentially sick people.
2) Pixel: Online order, delivery & at home testing. I have not used this one yet, but it's another where you order the test online. I checked their website and the wait times were 3-5 days after test is received by the lab. They bill your insurance or CARES Act if you are uninsured.
3) Hims: Online order, delivery & at home testing. I have not used this one yet, but it's another where you order the test online. I checked their website and the wait times were 3-5 days after your test is received by the lab. Cost is $150.
4) GoHealth: Onsite clinic testing by appointment. Here you sign up for a virtual appointment first. I had been getting same day/next day rapid testing appointments with the results back same day, although a few days ago I tried to book a virtual appointment and they did not have any virtual appointments available. If using this option, I recommend checking that the result times are what you need. Cost is $51 for virtual appointment and $100 for rapid test.
5) Carbon Health: Onsite clinic testing by appointment. They had been offering mobile clinics throughout CA with rapid testing, you just had to book an appointment a few days before. This option is now sending their results to the lab and can take 5-7 days to get your results back. Carbon bills your insurance or CARES Act if you are uninsured.
When I first used this option (via mobile clinic) I booked an appointment for one day out and got my results the same day. The next time I booked the mobile clinic, they called me to rebook the appointment for the next day because they had moved the clinic to another location...then they said that they had to switch from the rapid test to the lab test and that the results would take 5-7 days so beware of that.
Please do your own research prior to using any of these methods as result turnaround is changing constantly!
Anyway, I hope that you find this info to be helpful. If there are any other testing methods that you are using that are good, please let me know in the comments.
Wishing you smooth travels!
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Corporate flight attendant based out of the San Francisco Bay Area.