Starting Oct. 1, all travelers flying into or out of Tampa International Airport (TPA) will have the opportunity to participate in a COVID-19 testing pilot program, offered in conjunction with the BayCare Health System. The airport is the first in the United States to offer such wide-scale testing. (Previously, only individual airlines have offered tests.)
TPA will offer two types of tests: the PCR nasal swab test and the antigen test, which will cost $125 and $57, respectively. The PCR test is crucial for international travelers, as many countries require anyone crossing their borders to provide negative PCR test results taken within just a few days of travel. The antigen test is good for a traveler's own peace of mind, but results may not be accepted by a border agent for entry into a country.
Ticketed passengers departing from TPA will be able to visit the airport 72 hours in advance of their flight to take PCR tests, and they can expect results within 48 hours. Antigen tests can be taken on the day of a flight, as results are ready within 15 minutes. Passengers arriving at TPA are also permitted to take both tests after they land.
In order to be tested, passengers must show proof of travel, like a boarding pass or a receipt from an airline, and they must pay via credit card. (You'll have to file an insurance claim on your own.)
"Aside from the obvious health protection it provides when a passenger knows his or her COVID-19 status, providing this testing should bring confidence to air travel," said Emily Nipps, senior manager of communications at Tampa International Airport. "Since the beginning of the pandemic, airports and airlines have really struggled to recover from the uncertainty and fear people feel getting on planes, taking vacations, and visiting loved ones. This COVID-19 testing pilot, and other similar programs at airports around the world, is a step toward bringing confidence back among our travelers and hopefully making our communities safer too.
TPA's testing center is located in the Main Terminal and will be open from 8 a.m. through 2 p.m. seven days a week for the entire month of October.