Nearly a month after saying it would offer a way for travelers to get tested at home before their trip, Delta officially launched its new at-home COVID-19 testing option on Friday. And it won't come cheap.
The kits, provided through Delta's new partnership with AZOVA, will cost $119 per passenger – or $115 if you pick one up through a Costco Pharmacy. You can order test kits through azovahealth.com/test/delta, which also provides insight on when you need to order a test in order to satisfy entry requirements for an upcoming trip.
AZOVA says its PCR results should be processed and available within 12 to 36 hours of receiving a sample. The at-home kits are meant to test requirements to enter many foreign countries, and Delta's at-home tests will also be accepted in Hawaii.
While the costs are steep, it's not out of line with other airlines offering testing through at-home kits or at the airport, which range from $90 to $250 per passenger. Delta has also rolled out onsite rapid testing stations to many of its hubs, most recently in Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).
These kits won't work for getting tested prior to returning to the U.S. from a trip abroad. But Delta has also lined up testing sites through AZOVA for travelers preparing to come home from Mexico or Costa Rica.
The new testing option for Delta flyers comes as airlines and travelers alike scramble to navigate the new testing requirements for international trips. As of Jan. 26, anyone flying back to the U.S. from abroad must provide a recent negative COVID-19 test. And many countries already required visitors to present a recent negative COVID-19 test for entry.
“We are building an experience that offers flexibility and control for customers, even as their needs change,” Bill Lentsch, Delta's chief customer experience officer, said in a statement. “These new testing options will ensure that every customer has the information they need to choose the test that is right for them.”
Delta's At-Home COVID-19 Tests
Delta customers in the U.S. will be able to purchase at-home COVID-19 tests online or at select Costco Pharmacies.
AZOVA recommends ordering a kit one to two weeks before your trip. From there, travelers must schedule a slot to take a test under observation. Remember, countries each have different requirements for when a traveler must physically take their test in order to satisfy entry requirements.
Samples can be shipped overnight back to AZOVA in prepaid UPS parcels. AZOVA has a handy chart laying out when you should take your test based on whether your destination requires a test taken within 48 hours, 72 hours, or five days of departure.
While it may be a convenient option, it's not a foolproof system. The lab explicitly warns not to take a test on Sundays, and also says these tests may not work for traveling to a country with a 72-hour testing requirement on Tuesdays or Wednesdays “due to weekend shipping limitations.”
What About Returning to the U.S.?
All travelers boarding flights for the U.S., including citizens returning home from a trip abroad, must present a negative COVID-19 test (NAAT, PCR, or rapid antigen) taken within three days of departure.
So whether you're heading to Mexico, Costa Rica, Turkey, or all the way to the Maldives, you will need to get a COVID-19 test before returning to the U.S.
AZOVA also offers in-person testing options to return home from a trip to Mexico or Costa Rica, with costs ranging from $59 for a rapid antigen test or $125 for a PCR test. But many hotels and resorts have stepped up to offer on-site rapid testing, too – in many cases for free.
Regardless, all travelers 2 and up now need a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departing back to the U.S.
Airlines are scrambling to soothe travelers' concerns about new testing requirements. Delta's new option to buy at-home testing kits before you leave could go a long way to making your next international trip easier.
But airlines and airports still have a long way to go to smoothly (and cheaply) integrate testing into the travel experience. And even as vaccinations ramp up, testing requirements are likely to be part of travel for a long time.