The Portland International Jetport in Portland. Credit: CBS 13

Travelers who fly into Portland International Jetport with United Airlines will now be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive.

United is the first airline at Portland International to begin a testing program as part of the check-in process, assistant airport director Zachary Sundquist said Thursday. Customers flying into Portland will be able to schedule their testing time before arriving at the airport.

Portland International expects other airlines that fly to and from the city to follow United’s lead.

“We are working with all of our airlines to assist in getting the information out and really appreciate United responding so rapidly,” Sundquist said.

United flies several flights between Portland and the United States, including direct flights from Chicago, Newark and Washington, D.C. Travelers to Maine from each of those locations are currently required to quarantine for 14 days or show evidence of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

The new testing comes amid record high COVID-19 cases across Maine and the United States. New Jersey, Illinois and Washington, D.C., have also all seen recent spikes.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said COVID-19 and other viruses do not spread easily during air travel, social distancing is nearly impossible on a crowded flight. Airport terminals and security lines can put you at risk by bringing you in close contact with others, the CDC said.

Several people were potentially exposed to COVID-19 in September after someone who tested positive for the virus entered the airport. That person did not ultimately board their plane after speaking to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention staff.

Portland International is the busiest in the state, seeing nearly 2.2 million passengers in 2019. With declines in travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 616,000 people have traveled to and from the airport through September.

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