American travel industry, airlines urge end to Covid-19 testing to enter US

Many Americans are not travelling internationally due to concerns that they will test positive and be stranded abroad. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Major US airlines, business and travel groups and other companies urged the White House on Thursday (May 5) to abandon Covid-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers travelling to the United States.

"Given the slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors, and in the light of medical advancements and the improved public health metrics in the US, we encourage you to immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travellers," said the letter signed by American Airlines, tour operator firm Carnival, hotel group Marriott International, Disney Parks, the US Chamber of Commerce, the US Travel Association and others.

Airline executives say many Americans are not travelling internationally because of concerns that they will test positive and be stranded abroad.

The letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said that "the economic costs associated with maintaining the measure are significant", adding that international travel spending is down 78 per cent compared with 2019 levels.

The letter noted that many foreign governments "with similar infection, vaccination and hospitalisation rates - including Britain, Germany, and Canada - have eliminated pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated travellers".

The letter noted that the Biden administration does not require negative tests for entry at land-border ports of entry with Canada and Mexico but only for air travellers.

The White House did not immediately comment.

On April 18, a federal judge declared the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful and the Biden administration quickly stopped enforcing the rules on airplanes and in transit hubs such as airports.

In December, the Biden administration imposed tougher new rules requiring international air travellers arriving in the US 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.

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