A 'Covid-free' flight just landed in London. CNN's Richard Quest was on board

A 'Covid-free' flight just landed in London. CNN's Richard Quest was on board

United Airlines is testing passengers boarding Newark to London flights for Covid-19. Richard Quest was on board to try the experimental service that the airline hopes will help reignite transatlantic travel.


(CNN) — A transatlantic passenger flight that, even in the age of Covid-19, feels safe -- United Airlines flight 14 from Newark which landed at Heathrow Airport early on Tuesday seemed to be exactly that.

The flight is the first in a four-week trial by the airline in which passengers and crew are tested before boarding, offering them the reassurance that -- at least at time of take off -- no one has the virus.

United wants to demonstrate that proper onboard testing could allow transatlantic travel to open back up again, reducing or eliminating the need for quarantine and reigniting the travel industry.

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So how does it work? I was one of 36 passengers aboard the inaugural overnight flight to Heathrow to experience the process. Here's what happened:

The screening for the virus -- a rapid Abbott ID Now Covid-19 test administered by Premise Health -- took place immediately after check in.

You go through security, head toward the gate and the testing facility, which is located at the Newark United Club. You go in, give your name, answer basic medical questions and a nurse does a nasal swab.

It's not at all intrusive. The doctor in charge explained to me that the swab doesn't need to go beyond the nasal passages to detect Covid. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes in total, then you get the results printed and handed to you.