Transportation

Airlines, travel groups urge White House to remove testing requirement for vaccinated travelers

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A coalition of airlines and travel groups is urging the Biden administration to remove the testing requirement for vaccinated travelers, arguing that such a move would help the travel and aviation industry recover roughly two years into the pandemic.

 

“On behalf of the many sectors of the travel and aviation industries, we urgently request that the Administration remove the requirement for pre-departure testing for vaccinated passengers traveling to the United States,” the groups wrote in a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients

“Doing so is justified by the pervasiveness of COVID cases in all 50 states, increased immunity and higher vaccination rates as well as new treatments. Removing the requirement will greatly support the recovery of travel and aviation in the United States and globally without increasing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” they added.

The groups argued that because COVID-19 has spread widely in the U.S, “attempts to control its importation via air travel under today’s circumstances are unlikely to change that fact.”

They noted, however, that if a “new threatening variant” were to appear imminent, the pre-departure testing mandate “could be easily reinstituted.”

The letter also points to the European Union’s recommendation that its countries drop COVID-19 restrictions for travel among member nations, and the United Kingdom’s announcement that it was removing pre-departure testing for vaccinated travelers entering the country.

Additionally, the groups brought attention to a recommendation from the World Health Organization that said countries  should consider lifting measures for travelers who are fully vaccinated.

Lifting the pre-departure testing requirement, according to the groups, would in turn help the airline and travel industry recover from losses experienced during the pandemic.

According to surveys of air passengers cited in the letter, pre-departure testing requirements are one of the top factors that dissuade individuals from traveling internationally, as some travelers are reportedly nervous they will be barred from returning to the U.S. if they test positive in a foreign country.

The groups said dropping the pre-departure testing requirement for inoculated travelers “will further incentivize vaccinations.”

“Travel and aviation’s recovery is dependent on the government taking steps to remove travel restrictions that are no longer justified by current circumstances,” they added.

The letter from the airlines and travel groups comes after the Biden administration announced in December that all international air travelers would be required to present a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of flying, regardless of vaccination status or nationality.

The new regulation came after the U.S. detected the first case of the highly transmissible omicron variant. The strain has since spread widely in the U.S.

Airlines for America, which is comprised of a number of major airlines including Delta and American Airlines, signed the letter, in addition to the International Air Transport Association and the National Air Carrier Association.

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