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Wisconsin couple denied boarding on flight to Jamaica because of wrong COVID-19 test

linda and hubby on beach.jpg
Posted at 2:00 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 17:00:19-04

PLYMOUTH, Wisc. — Linda Kennedy and her husband were hours away from the sandy beaches of Jamaica. With sunglasses, sunscreen, tickets, and negative COVID-19 tests in tow, they were ready to fly.

Then, she says, they got turned away at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

"They claim that the test results that we had were not ones that Jamaica accepts," said Kennedy over the phone.

Kennedy said Delta denied their boarding because they didn't have what's called a "PCR" COVID-19 test.

According to The Food and Drug Administration, a "PCR" ( Polymerase chain reaction) test detects the virus’s genetic material.

The Kennedys got a "NAAT" (Nucleic-acid amplification test) at Walgreens. It also detects genetic material, but many medical professionals consider PCR the "gold standard" because of its accuracy.

Antigen testing is another testing method used to detect the virus. It detects specific proteins from the virus.

"They never made that clear to me and that's what upsets me," Kennedy said.

Adding to her frustration, Kennedy said before her departure date, she checked with the Jamaica Tourist Board to make sure she was good to go.

"They (the airline) were pushing it on Jamaica. Whereas Jamaica said, 'that's not us. We allow it. It's Delta,'" said Kennedy.

Doctor Hashim Zaibak with Hayat pharmacy is urging travelers to be in constant communication with their airlines before getting a COVID-19 test because they keep coming to Hayat frantic, sometimes in tears, requesting to take another one.

"People are so confused. Different areas ask for different tests and different countries ask for different tests," said Dr. Zaibak.

He told TMJ4 News it's a good idea for travelers to check on COVID-19 testing requirements even for domestic flights. For example, if you fly to New York City, you need to get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours before arrival.

"Things are changing so quickly and what was true two days ago may not be true today," said Dr. Zaibak.

Dr. Zaibak said your pharmacist can walk you through it and you don't want to wait until the last minute. He explains PCR tests can take days for results. You can get a PCR same-day test. But, you'll likely have to pay.

"Some places it's for the same day PCR, it can be $90, $100, $159. We called a place that charges $259 for those tests," he continued.

Linda said she and her husband each paid $160 for one -- add that to their $500 plane tickets and their trip has become pricey.

"I thought I had done everything that I needed to do," Kennedy said.

The couple plans on re-booking their flights and making it to the beach.

TMJ4 News also reached out to the airline asking for a comment. A spokesperson with Delta responded, informing us Delta has fully refunded Linda Kennedy and offered her a goodwill gesture for her experience.

TMJ4 News also contacted the travel support team with the Jamaica Tourist Board. A representative responded with the below comment:

"We regret the situation that the traveler has been in. A negative COVID-19 PCR or Antigen test result is acceptable for entry to Jamaica. Airlines may have their own COVID-19 test requirements for travelers to board aircraft. It is understood that most airlines accept both PCR and Antigen test results for boarding."

This story originally reported by Kristin Byrne on TMJ4.com.