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US Airline Industry Urges Testing to Replace Travel Restrictions

Airlines for America says it supports the CDC proposal to require COVID-19 tests for all inbound international travelers

January 7, 2021

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, aviation industry advocacy group Airlines For America is urging the government to implement mandatory testing for international arrivals into the US.

The group, which represents US carriers including American Airlines, Delta and United, said it supports a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposal to replace existing travel bans with a testing program for inbound arrivals.

On Dec. 28, the CDC mandated all inbound UK passengers to undergo COVID-19 testing within 72 hours and provide negative results prior to departure. Airlines are responsible for confirming the negative results before allowing passengers to board.

“We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further [economic and health] objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,” said A4A president Nick Calio in the letter.

In September, the International Air Transport Association made a similar plea to governments around the world in support of pre-flight testing for all international passengers.

Early on in the pandemic, the US placed a travel ban on non-US citizens arriving from Brazil, China, the UK and two dozen other countries. These restrictions remain in place, despite the fact that COVID-19 has now spread to areas not covered by the travel ban.

Across the US, some state governments, such as New York, have imposed their own quarantine protocols and travel restrictions. On the other hand, tourism-dependent Hawaii has coordinated pre-departure testing procedures with select airlines to restart travel.

Meanwhile major carriers, including American, Delta and United, have launched their own pre-departure rapid testing programs in an effort to assure passengers their flight is “COVID-free.”

A4A’s push for mandatory testing comes as the Canadian government announced that pre-departure testing will be required for all travelers inbound to the country starting Jan. 7.