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United Airlines to begin trial of free passenger Covid tests on London flights

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A traveler wearing a protective mask waits to board a United Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport, Oct. 15, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

United Airlines on Thursday said it plans to offer pre-flight Covid-19 testing next month for some travelers heading to London, the latest effort to get around travel restrictions and concerns about the virus.

The trial will run from Nov. 16 through Dec. 11 on some flights from its hub in Newark, New Jersey, to London’s Heathrow. United will pay for the rapid molecular Abbott ID Now tests, for Monday, Wednesday and Friday departures. Travelers who don’t want to be tested will be moved to other flights “guaranteeing everyone on board other than children under two will have tested negative before departure,” said the airline.

United and other airlines with sprawling international networks have struggled during the pandemic as a web of travel bans and quarantine requirements devastates demand.

But carriers are increasingly turning to pre-flight testing as a potential way to avoid quarantine periods and outright entry restrictions and have urged officials to consider negative test results as a substitute for quarantines and other rules.

“This patchwork of rules is confusing and discourages travel,” a group of 20 trade groups that represent companies from American Airlines to Boeing and Marriott and labor unions wrote to the Trump administration last week. “Furthermore, there are alternatives to quarantines, such as testing and screening of passengers at or ahead of departure, that can significantly reduce the risk of importation of COVID-19 and may actually be more effective due to the difficulties in enforcing compliance with quarantine requirements.”

United earlier this month started offering Covid tests, which travelers pay for, to some passengers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii. The launch coincided with Hawaii’s removal of a two-week quarantine requirement for inbound travelers if they had a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours.

The tests ahead of the London flights will be conducted at Newark airport at a United Club lounge and customers have to make an appointment ahead of time.

United said it will share feedback from customers to U.S. and U.K. government officials and said travel demand has increased when travelers have the option to test for the virus before the flight.


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U.S. Covid cases likely to peak after Thanksgiving

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The latest upswing in U.S. coronavirus cases is unlikely to reach its peak until after Thanksgiving, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Thursday, a stark prediction for a nation that is already seeing record levels of diagnosed infections.

The country’s seven-day average of new cases reached a fresh high of almost 74,200 on Wednesday, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. That represents a 23.6% increase from a week ago.

Gottlieb, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner under the Trump administration, said that in previous Covid-19 surges, transmission rates really only started to come down when Americans in hard-hit regions started to “express more caution” by going out less and wear face masks more regularly.

“And I think it’s going to take more infection until we get there, unfortunately,” he said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “I think after Thanksgiving, that’s going to be a turning point when the infection levels get high enough in many parts of the country that we start to see a policy reaction and also consumer behavior start to change. The month of December is really spent probably hunkering down a bit more, and hopefully we turn the corner as we get into the new year.”

New cases of Covid-19 are growing, based on a seven-day average, in 47 states, according to CNBC’s analysis of Hopkins data. Hospitalizations have reached record highs in 16 states, including many Midwestern states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and the Dakotas.

Overall, the U.S. has nearly 8.9 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and at least 227,703 deaths, Hopkins data shows. On Wednesday, the country saw 78,981 new diagnosed infections, according to Hopkins data. “We’ll cross 100,000 infections at some point in the next couple of weeks probably,” Gottlieb said. “We might do it this week if all the states report on time.”

Gottlieb expressed concern that families getting together around the Thanksgiving will contribute to further spread of the coronavirus, making December “the more difficult month.” He said his family won’t be gathering this Thanksgiving because of Covid-19.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, 79-year-old Dr. Anthony Fauci, has expressed similar plans, saying his three children will not be traveling to see him since it would require them to fly and use public transportation.

“I have older parents. I’m not going to be bringing together a large group of people and risking older individuals who we have so far been able to protect through this virus,” Gottlieb said. “I think we’ll be celebrating together in 2021, Thanksgiving of 2021. We need to get through the next couple of months. This is the hardest point in this pandemic, the next two months. … We can’t give up our guard right now. I think we need to continue to be vigilant.”


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Yum Brands (YUM) Q3 2020 earnings top estimates

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Signage is displayed outside a Yum! Brands Inc. Taco Bell restaurant in Lockport, Illinois.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Yum Brands on Thursday reported that its quarterly revenue rose 8%, fueled by Taco Bell’s return to positive same-store sales growth.

Shares of the company fell less than 1% in premarket trading.

Here’s what the company reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.01, adjusted, vs. 80 cents expected
  • Revenue: $1.45 billion vs. $1.42 billion expected

Yum reported third-quarter net income of $283 million, or 92 cents per share, up from $255 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier.

Yum’s investment in Grubhub lifted earnings per share by 2 cents this quarter due to changes in its fair value. The KFC owner, which had disputed the terms of the agreement with Grubhub this summer, also said it sold its 3% stake for $206 million. The investment gave Yum a seat on Grubhub’s board, giving it a front seat to watch how third-party delivery companies operated. Executives said that the sale didn’t impact their view on the delivery space in general.

Excluding expenses from items including a voluntary early retirement program and restructuring, the company earned $1.01 per share, topping the 80 cents per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Net sales of $1.45 billion was 8% higher than a year earlier, beating expectations of $1.42 billion. Same-store sales across Yum fell 2%, but the company’s digital sales set a record for a quarter, reaching $4 billion.

Taco Bell reported same-store sales growth of 3%. Last quarter, the chain saw its same-store sales fall 8%, hurt by lower demand from early morning and late-night customers.

Yum’s other brands reported same-store sales declines in the quarter. KFC’s and Pizza Hut’s results were dragged down by lagging demand in their international markets. KFC’s global same-store sales fell 4%, despite U.S. same-store sales growth of 9%. Pizza Hut reported global same-store sales declines of 3%. The pizza chain’s quarterly same-store sales rose 6% in the United States.

Habit Burger Grill, which Yum bought earlier this year, saw same-store sales fall 3% in the quarter.

Yum’s third quarter also included 267 net restaurant closures. Compared with the same time a year ago, its restaurant footprint was up 2%. Pizza Hut’s restaurant count fell 4% from the year-ago period after closures that included hundreds of stores owned by NPC International, its largest U.S. franchisee, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year.

Read the full earnings report here.


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