The country’s biggest airlines are asking the Trump administration to institute a “global program to require testing for travelers to the United States” — and scrap many travel restrictions.
In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, the advocacy group Airlines for America said it was supporting a proposal by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement the universal testing. The organization, which represents airlines including American, Delta, United and Southwest, said it also urged the administration to eliminate entry restrictions on people traveling “from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil.”
The letter argues that such moves would protect the health and safety of people flying and communities on the ground while also allowing for “essential economic activities.”
“We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,” the letter says.
Some national testing requirements are in place to fly in North America: Late last month, in light of news of a faster-spreading variant of the virus, the CDC introduced a requirement that anyone flying from the United Kingdom must show negative coronavirus test results from no more than 72 hours before departing. As of Thursday, the Canadian government is requiring all air passengers who are 5 years of age or older to test negative before flying to Canada.
Health experts have warned that testing isn’t foolproof for travel, as passengers can become infectious in the time window after testing negative. Testing, too, remains imperfect: According to the Food and Drug Administration, antigen tests for the coronavirus provide faster results than molecular tests but “have a higher chance of missing an active infection.” Airlines for America said it is in favor of accepting both kinds of tests, calling the testing program “another layer of safety in the travel journey.”
Airlines for America suggested a timeline of at least 14 days to roll out a global testing program and asked for government help in making rapid tests available to fliers.
“We share optimism that the end of this devastating pandemic is in sight now that safe and effective vaccines are being distributed,” the group said in the letter to Pence. “However, we also know that additional vigorous action is needed in the months ahead to bring the virus under control.”