JetBlue to offer free COVID testing

JetBlue Airways will begin offering free COVID-19 testing at its New York-JFK terminal as part of its focus on the safety of flyers and staff as it looks to the new year.

The hometown carrier will offer any travelers and staff — not just its own — free tests at new site in Terminal 5 at JFK airport, JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty told TPG in an interview as part of Airlines Week at the 2020 TPG Awards. Walk-in testing will be available, though results will take up to 48 hours.

This is only the latest in JetBlue’s coronavirus pandemic response. The airline has doubled down on its “safety from the ground up” initiatives keep travelers and employees safe even as it moves towards selling all seats again on Jan. 8.

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“We know there is a lot of pent up travel demand,” said Geraghty. “As case counts get under control and people get more comfortable flying, we want to be there.”

And the focus on local case counts is important. While some people are willing to visit relatives or go on holiday, many others are not as COVID-19 infections hitting record levels around the U.S. New cases nearly topped 200,000 on Nov. 12 — a national record — and the seven-day moving average stood at 157,112 daily infections and rising on Nov. 15, according to Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention data.

Many corporations are holding off on allowing the majority of their staff return to the road until case counts come down again. This will put a damper on airlines’ recovery — including JetBlue — for some years to come.

Related: JetBlue extends seat-blocking policy one last time, covering the December holidays

But Geraghty believes the airline has positioned itself well for that recovery.

Free coronavirus testing is just one thing JetBlue flyers can look forward to into 2021. Cleaning and mask requirements will remain in place, and so will travel flexibility after the airline dropped change fees, said Geraghty. In addition, inflight service on both its posh Mint flights and on its standard, all-economy seat flights will slowly return.

But JetBlue has more up its sleeve for the new year, even with safety precautions in place. The carrier will debut its all-new Airbus A220 sometime early in 2021 after the first jet arrives in December. Geraghty was mum on where the plane will initially fly, though she did say the aircraft could help restore some of the suspended routes it previously flew with Embraer E190 jets — albeit at a lower frequency.

Prior to the pandemic, JetBlue concentrated its E190s at its Boston (BOS) base, according to Cirium schedule data. The jets also flew up and down the East Coast on thinner routes from Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York-JFK and Orlando (MCO). (The Points Guy)

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