For the 50+ Traveler

If you’re planning air travel out of Chicago’s airports and you also need proof of negative COVID-19 test results, your travel plans are about to be streamlined.

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) has issued a Request for Proposal seeking a vendor to provide COVID-19 testing for passengers and employees at both O’Hare and Midway International Airports. The successful bidder will be expected to create and then manage two sites at O’Hare and one at Midway -- before the December holiday travel season begins.

“Our goal is to have the most robust and comprehensive testing program of any airport system possible to facilitate travel -- both domestic and international -- and to provide some peace of mind,” CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said in a news conference. “The pandemic has been incredibly disruptive for air travel, and we’re constantly working with our airport partners and airlines on ways to make air travel as safe as possible.”

The first O’Hare site will be walk-up, pre-security, in the terminal core, and will be accessible by CTA and by foot. The second site will be drive-up in a remote parking lot. Midway already has a drive-up site managed by Chicago’s Department of Public Health for use by residents. The new walk-up test site will be in the terminal for travelers.

The sites at the airports will offer both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and rapid point-of-care tests. Results from the rapid, point-of-care test should be available within 20 minutes. A PCR test takes longer to process -- travelers should receive those test results within 72 hours.

COVID-19 testing at the airports, other than the site at Midway for residents, will be limited to travelers and airport employees. Anyone requesting a test will need to show proof of air travel (within the window of 72 hours before their flight to five days after their flight), or proof of airport employment.

A New Service For Airports Across The Country

Adding test centers means Chicago’s airports will join a growing list of airports offering COVID-19 testing for travelers. For example, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has partnered with public and private health providers to manage COVID-19 testing sites for travelers as well as airport workers at passenger terminals at JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia airports. The testing site is free for all passengers, and no insurance is required.

In Boston, a COVID-19 testing facility at Logan International Airport opened for travelers just before Thanksgiving. Equipped with seven separate testing rooms, it has the capacity to accommodate the administration of more than 400 tests daily for passengers arriving and departing the airport within all terminals, as well as airport and airline employees.

The state of Alaska has stringent COVID-19 testing requirements. It’s recommended that people traveling to Alaska get tested well before traveling. However, a second option is to take a free COVID-19 test at the airport in Alaska, and then self-quarantine until notice of a negative test result is received.

Finally, Hawaii also has strict requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In response, United Airlines now offers pre-travel COVID-19 testing at both the San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport for travelers flying to Hawaii.

This is just a sampling of airports offering COVID-19 testing for travelers. It is recommended that you check with both your destination and the airports you’ll be using for more information on travel guidelines.

Destinations mentioned in this article: