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Airlines urge White House to require testing for travelers instead of travel bans

Airlines urge White House to require testing for travelers instead of travel bans
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Airlines for America (A4A), which represents the major U.S. airlines, called on the Trump administration to implement a global program to require testing for travelers into the United States in order to control the spread of COVID-19.

The group wrote a letter to Vice President Pence on Monday, supporting a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proposal to adopt a global testing program. They also supported rescinding current entry restrictions on travelers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil. 

“These entry restrictions should be removed concurrently with the testing program, which will provide yet another layer of safety in the travel journey,” A4A CEO Nicholas Calio wrote.

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Since March, travelers from Europe and other countries are not allowed to enter the United States, but the ban does not apply to returning U.S. citizens.

All travelers arriving to the U.S. from the United Kingdom are required to test negative for COVID-19 before departure. 

A4A also called for an implementation timeline of at least 14 days so that airlines can communicate new requirements to their customers and train their staff globally.

“Given the scope of this requirement, we would appreciate the government’s consideration of making rapid testing available for this effort. Special consideration for unique circumstances such as connecting passengers and U.S. citizens on short round trip journeys need to be factored into the plan as well so as not to discourage travel and the benefits of increased testing,” Calio wrote. 

The appeal to the Trump administration comes as the airline industry has been hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic. Travel and capacity restrictions as well as stay-at-home orders have significantly reduced the number of travelers flying over the past year. 

The economic fallout has also led to airlines receiving aid in both coronavirus relief packages to avoid massive employee layoffs or to bring back employees who were furloughed.

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American Airlines announced in December it will sell at-home coronavirus tests to passengers who are traveling to a city, state or territory with COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

A4A joined other major travel industry groups to call on the administration to establish a globally accepted framework for testing protocols in September, as a way to support the return of international travel.

At the time, the groups suggested a testing pilot program between the U.S. and either Europe, Canada or the Pacific and asked that the government partner with the industry on new concepts for airports and airlines like bubbles or airbridges.

Updated at 10:50 a.m.