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COVID testing: Travel industry and airlines want the White House to end testing requirements

Hoping to save the summer travel season, airlines and travel industry leaders urge Biden administration to end covid tests for international travel.

Push for White House to end covid testing requirements for international air travel

Travel industry leaders say that the US is at a “serious competitive disadvantage for export dollars” from global travelers due to the Biden administration’s pre-flight covid-19 testing requirement for international travelers. Over the past week they have been stepping up calls for it to be done away with because the “science no longer supports it.”

The policy has been in place since January 2021 when President Biden signed an executive order on covid-19 safety for travel on his first day in office. Other countries that had such measures have since dropped the requirement for vaccinated travelers, and the US does not require those crossing the land border to provide one.

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Travel industry is being “disproportionately harmed” by testing requirement

“While nearly all other US industries are operating without restrictions, the travel industry remains disproportionately harmed by this requirement, even though the science no longer supports it,” Roger Dow, President and CEO of the US Travel Association said in a statement. He and other leaders from the group meet with Biden administration officials at the White House along with leaders from Airlines for America representing the major US air carriers.

They were there to push government officials to drop the 16-month-old requirement that travelers get tested for covid-19 prior to boarding international flights bound for the US, regardless of vaccination status. They claim that the measure is limiting the recovery of international travel.

Pre-flight covid-19 test depressing international travel

“The only impact the pre-departure testing requirement is having is a chilling effect on an already fragile economy here in the US,” Airlines for America chief Nick Calio said in a separate statement.

A survey conducted by Morning Consult for US Travel Association released in May showed that the requirement is having a major impact on the likelihood of travelers visiting the United States this summer. Over half of international respondents, 54 percent, said that potentially having to cancel a trip due to the pre-departure testing requirements was weighing on their travel decisions. However, 46 percent would be more likely to travel to the US if there were no testing requirement for vaccinated adults.

The US Travel Association said that if just 20 percent more visitors came this summer that would translate into half a million additional visitors each month. They would inject $2 billion monthly into the economy and support over 40,000 US jobs during the summer.

US may drop testing requirement soon but there is no word yet

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaking at a Crain’s Chicago Business event in May said in his opinion the testing requirement for international travelers will not be around forever. But he added that it will be up to the CDC to feel confident “relaxing it would not harm the progress that we’ve made,” at bringing the virus under control.

The US currently doesn’t require those travelling into the US across its land borders to present a negative covid-19 test. This was the reason the Boston Red Sox flew to their game in Toronto against the Blue Jays at the end of April, but took a two-hour bus ride to Buffalo, New York to catch a domestic flight home. The Blue Jays did the same to avoid having any of their players left behind due to a positive covid-19 test when they traveled for their series at Fenway Park.


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