One of the major challenges facing Canadian travellers who embark on international trips is the requirement to present a negative molecular test within 72 hours of flying back to Canada.
Today, Air Canada has launched a new partnership with Canadian healthcare company Switch Health to address this challenge and simplify travellers’ journeys.
Air Canada and Switch Health have launched a series of portable molecular and antigen testing kits (including self-administered testing kits) that can be used all around the world, with preferred pricing available for Aeroplan members.
New Switch Health COVID-19 Test Kits
Depending on the testing requirements of the countries you are entering or returning to on your journey, you can choose from one of three new testing options by Switch Health:
- Switch Health COVID-19 RT-LAMP Test Kit (1 test)
- Switch Health COVID-19 Antigen Test Kit (2 tests)
- Switch Health COVID-19 RT-PCR Test Kit (1 test)
The three tests may be ordered online on the Switch Health website or through the Aeroplan eStore.
Each test is performed in the comfort of your home or accommodations, meaning that you won’t have to worry about taking time out of your day to visit a testing facility. The tests are performed on devices that are included in the packages.
Switch Health COVID-19 RT-LAMP Test Kit
Perhaps the most exciting offering out of the three test kits from a Canadian traveller’s perspective, the Switch Health RT-LAMP Test Kit satisfies the Government of Canada’s requirement for a negative molecular test taken within 72 hours of boarding a test back to Canada.
This means that travellers can order the RT-LAMP Test Kit before leaving Canada, pack the kit in their luggage, embark on their trip, and self-administer the test within 72 hours of their return flight.
The test will be taken under the supervision of a Telehealth professional, and results will be available within 45 minutes, along with an official electronic report suitable for travel.
By bringing along the Switch Health COVID-19 RT-LAMP Test Kit, Canadians will no longer need to take time out of their trips to seek out foreign testing facilities prior to returning to Canada, reducing a major source of potential headache in this new era of international travel.
Switch Health COVID-19 Antigen Test Kit
The Switch Health Antigen Test Kit comes with two antigen tests, which are suitable for entry into the United States. Antigen tests are not accepted by the Government of Canada for the purpose of entering Canada via a commercial flight.
Like the RT-LAMP Test Kit, the Antigen Test Kit is portable and self-administered under the supervision of a Telehealth professional.
Canadians who are travelling to the United States might opt to order, say, both an Antigen Test Kit and an RT-LAMP Test Kit. The antigen test would be taken prior to the outbound flight to the US, while the RT-LAMP Test Kit is packed for the trip, to be self-administered prior to the return flight to Canada.
Switch Health COVID-19 RT-PCR Test Kit
Lastly, the Switch Health RT-PCR Test Kit is also available for purchase, and may be used to satisfy the entry requirements of certain countries that require pre-flight PCR tests, such as many Caribbean countries, the Maldives, French Polynesia, and more.
While the RT-PCR Test Kit can be self-administered under a Telehealth professional’s supervision, the test results must be sent to a Canadian lab for analysis (return shipping is included in the test kit’s cost). Therefore, the RT-PCR Test Kit is best ordered and taken prior to departing Canada.
Still, the Switch Health RT-PCR Test Kit may be a lot more convenient than visiting a testing lab in-person, especially in the busy few days leading up to a trip.
Preferred Pricing for Aeroplan Members
Under Air Canada and Switch Health’s partnership, Aeroplan members receive preferred pricing and bonus Aeroplan points for purchasing these test kits:
- RT-LAMP Test Kit (1 test): $149 plus tax + Earn 500 Aeroplan points
- Antigen Test Kit (2 tests): $79 plus tax + Earn 500 Aeroplan points
- RT-PCR Test Kit (1 test): $159 plus tax + Earn 1,000 Aeroplan points
For all three test kits, express shipping within 1–3 business days is included. Overnight shipping is available for an extra $10 on the Antigen Test Kit or an extra $15 on the RT-LAMP and RT-PCR Test Kits.
These prices are favourable compared to traditional testing options in Canada and abroad, especially once you factor in the convenience of a self-administered portable test kit.
For example, the $149 price point for the RT-LAMP Test Kit is comparable to what you can expect to pay for a PCR test in a foreign country, but that’s outweighed by sheer convenience and reduced stress of being able to take the test from the comfort of your accommodations and a very quick 45-minute turnaround for results.
Meanwhile, the $79 price point for a set of two antigen tests is on par with the cheapest antigen testing options we have in Canada (for example, $40 antigen tests at Shoppers Drug Mart in Ontario), and it’s available across all of Canada with no need to visit an in-person testing site.
Redeem Aeroplan Points for Switch Health Test Kits
- RT-LAMP Test Kit (1 test): 25,700 Aeroplan points (value of 0.58 cents per point)
- Antigen Test Kit (2 tests): 14,100 Aeroplan points (value of 0.56 cents per point)
- RT-PCR Test Kit (1 test): 26,900 Aeroplan points (value of 0.59 cents per point)
Needless to say, redeeming Aeroplan points for 0.56–0.59 cents per point is a terrible value proposition.
Save your Aeroplan points for the actual high-value flights that’ll get you to your destination, and pay cash for the test kits that’ll help you enter – especially since you’ll be earning some bonus Aeroplan points while you’re at it.
The Government of Canada’s requirement for a negative molecular test within 72 hours of boarding a flight to Canada remains an obstacle in the path of many would-be international travellers.
To address this, Air Canada and Switch Health have linked up to offer Canadians convenient and stress-free portable testing solutions that can be taken anywhere in the world.
I’m very encouraged to see Air Canada taking the initiative and finding innovative solutions to simplify Canadian travellers’ journeys and make it possible for more of us to start crossing borders again. I look forward to making use of the Switch Health RT-LAMP test on my next international trip in the near future.
Meanwhile, our contributor T.J. recently had the opportunity to trial the Switch Health RT-LAMP test for himself, and he will be following up this article shortly with a first-hand account of his experience using the RT-LAMP test to satisfy Canada’s entry requirements.