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United to offer free coronavirus tests for some London-bound travelers

Passengers traveling on United Flight 14, departing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will receive the rapid tests

United Airlines will offer free rapid COVID-19 tests next month for some London-bound travelers as officials try to revive travel between the United States and some international destinations.

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From Nov. 16 through Dec. 11, United will offer rapid tests to every crew member and passenger over the age of two on select flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to London Heathrow as part of its transatlantic testing pilot program.

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Passengers traveling on United Flight 14, departing at 7:15 p.m. ET on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will receive the rapid tests, which will be administered by Premise Health.

Passengers who don't want to be tested will be placed on an alternate flight in order to guarantee everyone -- aside from children under 2 -- has tested negative prior to departure, the airline said.

A United Airlines passenger pushes a luggage cart past closed check-in kiosks at San Francisco International Airport on July 8, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

UNITED AIRLINES OFFERING RAPID COVID-19 TESTS TO PASSENGERS

United's program kicks off just a month after reports surfaced that U.S. officials were looking into opening travel between New York City and London with shortened traveler quarantine periods as soon as the holidays.

Sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that the growing availability of COVID-19 testing has prompted officials in the Transportation Department, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to revive efforts to establish safe travel corridors between the United States and international destinations.

However, one U.S. official familiar with the situation told the Journal that both the Trump administration and foreign governments would have to agree to the plan.

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Additionally, a DHS official told previously FOX Business the agency’s work to “safely encourage transatlantic travel while mitigating public-health risks” was only in its early stages.

United's program marks the carrier's first major effort to navigate international quarantine restrictions while the industry continues to be battered by the virus. The four largest U.S. airlines -- American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta and United -- have lost at least $10 billion in each of the last two quarters alone.

However, as the holiday travel season nears, airlines such as United and Hawaiian have begun to test certain passengers prior to boarding to help them manage quarantine mandates -- and in certain cases avoid quarantine periods altogether -- in an effort to increase passenger demand.

For United's test program, passengers will be required to make an appointment for the test and should schedule their tests at least three hours before their flight, the airline noted. An on-site testing facility will be located at the Newark United Club.

FOX Business' Lucas Manfredi and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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