Airlines for America, along with 28 other airline, travel, and business groups, wrote to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients on Wednesday, urging him to end pre-departure COVID testing for vaccinated international travelers.
“Removing the requirement will greatly aid the recovery of travel and aviation in the United States and around the world without increasing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” the letter states.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the airline industry, resulting in flight restrictions and cancellations. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, global passenger traffic will be 49% lower in 2021 than it was in 2019. In addition, revenue is expected to fall by $324 billion in 2021 compared to 2019. According to the US Government Accountability Office, passenger traffic in 2020 will be 60% lower than in 2019. However, projections show that the decline in revenue and global passenger traffic is lessening, with the International Civil Aviation Organization projecting a 28 to 33 percent decrease in global passenger traffic in 2022 compared to 2019 levels.
According to the US Department of State, all international airline passengers ages 2 and older arriving in the United States must show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 24 hours of the flight’s departure, or proof of recovery from COVID. According to reports, the Trump administration implemented a policy in January 2021 requiring incoming international air travelers to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure.
According to a survey, pre-departure testing is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to travel internationally for air travelers, according to a letter from 29 airline, travel, and business groups to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients. On December 1, 2021, a COVID-19 test center operates inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles.
According to a survey, pre-departure testing is the most important factor for air travelers when deciding whether or not to travel internationally, according to the letter. The letter also states that because COVID is so prevalent in the United States, attempting to prevent it through air travel restrictions is unlikely to change the spread, citing that at least 22 percent of the population has had COVID.
The letter also mentions that the European Union advised its member countries to remove COVID travel restrictions within Europe, as well as the removal of pre-departure testing in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom announced last month that pre-departure testing for vaccinated travelers would be phased out beginning February 11, with Transport Secretary Shapps stating that it had “outlived its usefulness.”
According to the letter, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised states to take a risk-based approach to facilitating international travel by relaxing COVID policies. However, the WHO urged governments on Tuesday to tighten COVID restrictions in order to combat the virus, as the organization reported 90 million cases since Omicron was first identified 10 weeks ago.
International inbound air travel will likely not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, according to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, during a conference call with reporters earlier Wednesday. This is referred to as “leaving a tremendous amount of ground to make up.”
Throughout the pandemic, airlines and travel organizations have repeatedly urged the Trump and Biden administrations to relax restrictions that they claim have prolonged a slump in long-haul international travel.
Last spring, European countries began lifting entry bans on visitors from the United States and other countries, a move that the United States did not match until November.