Ho‘okipa (hospitality) takes many shapes at Hawaiian Airlines, and in 2020, it is reflected in our work to ensure guests have reliable access to pre-travel COVID-19 tests to meet the state of Hawai‘i’s Safe Travels requirements. We have invested in numerous testing partnerships to make it easy for our guests to obtain negative test results within 72 hours of their trip so they may safely enjoy long-awaited Hawai‘i vacations or return home. These collaborations have played a critical role in keeping travel to our islands safe, protecting the health of communities and bolstering the local economy.
In late October, we became the first U.S. airline to begin establishing a network of drive-through COVID-19 testing locations near key gateway airports in partnership with Long Beach-based Worksite Labs. Our guests departing to Hawai‘i from San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and starting today, San Jose International Airport, have exclusive access to shallow nasal swab PCR tests – the gold standard in COVID-19 screening – at conveniently located Worksite Labs sites, with results within 36 hours for $90.
“We chose to do our pre-travel testing with Worksite Labs, and they made us feel the Aloha spirit from the moment we arrived at the drive-through testing site,” said Lori Timmons, who recently traveled from San Francisco to visit family on O‘ahu, and reached out to us to share her positive experience. “It was conveniently located and well-staffed with friendly and patient people who helped our family of six through the windows of our car. The testing itself was easy and comfortable, just as convenient as making the reservation online — including the ability to edit/adjust our appointment. We received our negative results ahead of our departure and obtained the QR code from Hawai‘i’s Safe Travels Program to breeze through airport screening once we arrived in Hawai‘i as well as at the hotels. Mahalo Worksite Labs for providing this essential service to keep our family and the people of Hawai‘i safe!”
Our airline's Worksite Labs venture was established to offer travelers quick, affordable and reliable test results from dedicated laboratories that are free from accessibility constraints the pandemic has placed on healthcare testing providers.
We talked story with Worksite Labs CEO Gary Frazier and Hawaiian Airlines Senior Vice President of Marketing Avi Mannis to learn more about our growing partnership, its impact on travel and what the future holds. To learn more about our pre-travel testing options and partners, please visit www.hawaiianairlines.com/COVIDTesting.
How Worksite Labs got its start and what the future holds, with Gary Frazier, CEO of Worksite Labs
Can you explain your background and how Worksite Labs was started?
I spent the last two decades developing strategies for healthcare providers and later moved into an independent consultant role for various hospitals and health systems. When COVID-19 started to spread in the United States, I was doing consulting when I was approached by a company that was making PCR antigen tests and needed help getting FDA approval. We spent an entire month and a half pulling together validation studies and partners only for it to later fall apart. But because of that experience, I had been put through an immersion of COVID-19 laboratory testing services.
When that project didn’t work, a friend asked me what I had learned. I believed that the lab infrastructure in the country would not be able to keep up with testing demand because of the pandemic and that turnaround times for results could get pushed out several days (weeks, even). That same friend asked what I would do to solve that problem, and I said I would bring the lab to them [the client]. I would put a lab on-site and dedicate it to that client so that they never have to worry about competing for a spot in the queue. That was the conception of Worksite Labs, and by May, I had the beginnings of the business.
What does it take to get a mobile lab up and running at these sites?
Getting one of our professional-grade labs in operation takes about two weeks, and requires three parallel processes to occur:
- Our clients have to have a facility (or leased land, in Hawaiian Airlines' case) for the container to live. Each lab is in an 8-by-20-foot shipping container that has gone through an extensive custom refurbishment for clinical and medical use.
- Once the lab is on the site, we need to acquire the equipment that is required for processing laboratory science and COVID-19 tests.
- We have to hire qualified lab staff to work in the lab, primarily scientists and lab technicians or assistants. For Hawaiian’s drive-through locations, we also need licensed vocational nurses and medical assistants outside of the labs doing collections, instructing travelers on how to provide their sample and informing them of safety protocols.
Because we can open up testing capability for Hawaiian in this turn-key way, it doesn’t have to invest in equipment, hire medical staff, and get into a business that isn’t its expertise. Our service is all-inclusive, flexible and responsive so that Hawaiian Airlines can focus on its business while we take care of the rest.
What is the testing capacity of each lab? How does Worksite Labs guarantee its turnaround time?
It varies because we can scale our capacity up or down. At a minimum, during an eight-hour shift, we can process up to 2,000 samples. Then it takes eight hours for the staff to process the results inside the lab. The spice in our dish is that we can test samples on-site—we’re not shipping them out. Our Hawaiian Airlines labs are dedicated to its customers and are not affected if/when there’s a surge of medically required testing and the large multi-purpose labs are at max testing capacity.
How are the Hawaiian Airlines-dedicated labs performing?
In the last month, we did 5,091 tests and we’re in the 99 percentile for on-time testing results. In short, I’d say these labs are running very well.
Looking ahead, what does the future look like for Worksite Labs and its partnership with Hawaiian Airlines?
Testing is likely not going to go away for a while. Our mobile labs are just like any other lab, so there’s nothing that will keep us from deciding that our services could be used to bolster capacity for hospital and medical groups.
In terms of our partnership with Hawaiian Airlines, as long as the state requires negative COVID-19 test results, we remain committed to simplifying the experience for its customers. There are other places that Hawaiian flies from where Worksite Labs could be deployed and used as a dedicated lab for its customers.
How and why the partnership was created, with Avi Mannis, Hawaiian Airlines senior vice president of marketing
Why did our airline decide to partner with a COVID-19 test provider, and what made Worksite Labs a good fit?
We realized early on in the pandemic that testing was going to be important to re-opening our state to travel, and that we should control our destiny rather than relying on large third-party labs. Worksite Labs offered us a solution tailor-fit to our needs: lab units that could be dedicated exclusively to our guests, with the gold standard in testing technology, located where it was most convenient for our travelers. And their entrepreneurial spirit lends itself to a challenge where we are creating an entirely new travel product from the ground up.
How has the partnership helped streamline the travel experience to Hawai‘i during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Making pre-travel testing seamless, easy and affordable helps our guests, but it also keeps our community safe. Keeping the state safe isn’t about creating additional hurdles for travelers; it’s about making it easy to do the right thing. We view testing as one more problem we can help solve for our guests so that they can focus on enjoying the journey. And it’s working – at a time when it is getting harder to find affordable, timely tests for Hawai‘i travel, our dedicated lab network is still able to deliver for our guests.
As Hawai‘i continues to adapt to these unique and evolving times, how important will testing partnerships like these be moving forward?
First, it’s important to recognize that what we have done as a state is working. While no system is perfect, pre-travel testing has allowed a modest resumption of tourism – our state’s biggest industry – while keeping cases well within the capacity of our health care system. Even as we look forward to the relief provided by vaccines, it’s clear that testing will remain important to re-opening travel well into 2021. The terrible human and economic toll of COVID-19 has shown us that we need infrastructure that is more resilient to pandemics, and we are developing some of those capabilities not just for now, but for the future security of our community.
What are our airline’s plans for testing sites? Are more expected to open and if so, where and how many?
We are continuing to open new dedicated testing sites in partnership with Worksite Labs in many of our major U.S. markets. So far, each testing site has exceeded our expectations in terms of demand, and we expect to continue expanding to make sure that access to testing is never an impediment for someone who wants to fly on Hawaiian.