Airlines ask Biden to drop Covid tests for travelers vaccinated before flights to the United States

A traveler wears a face mask while checking their phone on the arrivals level outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) amid increased travel restrictions Covid- 19 on January 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Airlines and other travel industry groups on Wednesday called on the Biden administration to drop Covid testing requirements for passengers vaccinated before flights to the United States, an attempt to reinvigorate the slow resumption of international travel.

“This is justified by the pervasiveness of COVID cases in all 50 states, increased immunity and higher vaccination rates as well as new treatments,” said an industry letter to the coronavirus response coordinator from the White House, Jeffrey Zients, who was seen by CNBC. “Removing the requirement will greatly support the resumption of travel and aviation in the United States and around the world without increasing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.”

The letter was signed by Airlines for America, a lobby group that represents Delta, American, United, Southwest and others, as well as more than two dozen other industry associations representing airlines, hotels, airports and aircraft manufacturers.

The Trump administration in January 2021 established a policy requiring inbound air travellers, including US citizens, to show proof of a negative Covid test taken within three days of departure.

The Biden administration in December tightened rules to require travelers to show tests taken within a day of departure after omicron cases spiked. The change came a month after the United States ended a broad travel ban on visitors from Europe, China, Brazil, India and the United Kingdom.

Demand for international travel, however, continues to lag domestic leisure, which has helped airlines recover from record 2020 losses.

The groups argued in their letter that the testing requirements for vaccinated people are too onerous and deter travel. The UK, from February 11, will drop its Covid testing requirement for vaccinated arrivals.

Inbound international air travel is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association, an industry group, said in a call with reporters earlier. Wednesday. It is “leaving a lot of ground to catch up”.

Throughout the pandemic, airlines and travel groups have repeatedly pressed the Trump and Biden administrations to ease restrictions they say have prolonged the decline in long-haul international travel.

European countries began lifting entry bans on visitors from the United States and other countries last spring, a move that was not followed by the United States until November.

The White House did not immediately comment on the letter.

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