United launches all-in-one travel center with support for vaccine passports
Keeping track of the ever-changing travel restrictions during the pandemic requires both a fine-tooth-comb and a healthy dose of patience.
Well, United has a solution that will both save you time and take out the guesswork. On Monday, the Chicago-based carrier unveiled a new all-in-one "Travel-Ready Center" to centralize all the pre-travel requirements — and get you cleared to travel.
After booking a flight, flyers can pull up the new all-in-one portal through the "My Trips" function, both on the mobile app and on United.com.
The portal will then display the destination-specific COVID-19 travel requirements, as well as local testing options in select markets.
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Customers will also be able to upload test results and/or vaccination records that might be needed for entry for both domestic and international markets. A United employee will then manually verify the authenticity of the documents.
After the documents are verified, the Travel-Ready Center will display a green "Travel Ready" status, which will allow you to check-in and bypass the ticket counter on departure. Just note that the travel requirements will only be displayed for travelers 18 years and older — families traveling with minors will need to complete check-in at the airport. Additionally, United recommends bringing physical travel documents just in case further inspection is needed during the journey.
Monday's announcement is just the beginning; the airline promises future enhancements to the portal.
In February, the carrier will add functionality to allow customers to schedule pre-travel COVID-19 tests at more than 15,000 clinics worldwide. If you choose one of the United-approved providers, your results will be automatically uploaded to the portal, and you'll become "Travel Ready" without any additional manual input.
The carrier will also integrate the new "agent on demand" feature into the new portal, offering flyers the ability to video chat with a live agent to chat about pre-travel requirements.
Other improvements in the pipeline include adding in visa requirements and piloting a digital "vaccine passport," should that be required for travel to certain destinations.
United's move follows closely after one of its largest competitors, American Airlines, announced a similar pre-travel test verification tool. In partnership with VeriFly, American Airlines customers flying internationally to the U.S. will soon be able to upload negative test results to expedite the check-in process.
More: Will you need an immunity passport to fly? How the COVID-19 vaccine will restart travel
The renewed focus on streamlining the pre-travel experience comes as the U.S. is set to introduce a sweeping test requirement for all inbound flyers coming from foreign countries. On Tuesday (Jan. 26), all travelers — regardless of citizenship — will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure to be eligible to board a U.S.-bound international flight.
Plus, as the worldwide vaccine rollout continues, airlines are laying the groundwork for "vaccine passports" — perhaps in anticipation of mandatory inoculations for international travel.