Airlines urge White House to end Covid-19 international travel testing rules

The groups said that recovery for the travel and aviation sectors is dependent on the government removing restrictions that are no longer justified. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Major airlines, business and travel groups urged the White House on Wednesday (Feb 2) to end Covid-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers travelling to the US.

Trade association Airlines for America, the US Chamber of Commerce, International Air Transport Association, Aerospace Industries Association, US Travel Association and other groups called for the change in a letter to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients.

"Surveys of air passengers indicate that pre-departure testing is a leading factor in the decision not to travel internationally. People simply are unwilling to take the chance that they will be unable to return to the US," they wrote.

The White House declined to comment. Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others said that as at last week, international air travel was down 38 per cent over 2019 levels.

In December, the Biden administration imposed tougher new rules requiring international air travellers arriving in the United States to obtain a negative Covid-19 test within one day of travel.

Under prior rules, vaccinated international air travellers could present a negative test result obtained within three days of their day of departure.

The White House and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention previously considered but have never imposed testing requirements for Americans to board domestic flights.

The letter noted that more than 74.3 million people have had Covid-19 in the US, meaning that at least 22 per cent of the population have had the virus.

"Clearly, Covid-19 is widespread throughout the US and attempts to control its importation via air travel under today's circumstances are unlikely to change that fact," it said.

It added that if any new threatening variants appeared, pre-departure testing could be easily reinstituted.

The European Union has recommended that countries remove Covid-19 air travel restrictions, the letter noted. Britain will end Covid-19 pre-departure testing for vaccinated air travellers to enter the country starting Feb 11.

The groups said "travel and aviation's recovery is dependent on the government taking steps to remove travel restrictions that are no longer justified by current circumstances".

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