Airlines and a plethora of travel industry associations have urged the Biden administration to ‘immediately’ eliminate COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for travelers flying to the US.
The group urged the White House to follow England’s lead, which last month dropped pre-travel vaccination testing for vaccinated travelers because the laws “could no longer be justified.”
Airlines For America, a lobbying group that represents several of the country’s largest airlines, including American, Delta, and United, as well as Southwest, jetBlue, and Hawaiian Airlines, signed the letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients.
“On behalf of the many sectors of the travel and aviation industries, we urgently request that the Administration remove the requirement for pre-departure testing for vaccinated passengers traveling to the United States,” the letter read.
“Doing so is justified by the pervasiveness of COVID cases in all 50 states, increased immunity and higher vaccination rates as well as new treatments.”
“Removing the requirement will greatly support the recovery of travel and aviation in the United States and globally without increasing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.”
Pre-departure testing for overseas travel was first implemented in January 2021, and the guidelines were created by the exiting Trump administration as a method to abolish the US’s pandemic travel limitations.
The Biden administration maintained the testing regulations in place, but decided to keep the travel bans in place for another ten months, easing admission criteria until in November 2021.
Passengers had three days to get tested before departure at first, but after the Omicron variant was introduced in December 2021, this time limit was reduced to just one day.
However, now that the Omicron type is the most common in the United States, the tourism industry claims that pre-departure testing is ineffective in protecting against COVID-19.
Instead, the laws are discouraging people from traveling internationally because they are afraid of testing positive right before their return flight and being stranded in a foreign country.
Last year, airlines exaggerated the importance of pre-departure testing, claiming that it could be used to ease even stricter travel restrictions.
According to a joint study conducted by American Airlines and British Airways, a single test before departure could catch 99.6% of positive COVID-19 instances.
However, that research was done before other transmissible varieties like Omicron were discovered.
According to a recent examination of pre-departure testing rules in Finland and Italy conducted by Oxera and Edge Health, they are “likely to be unsuccessful at blocking or even reducing the spread of the Omicron strain.”
The travel industry has claimed that pre-departure testing may be eliminated because there are no new varieties on the horizon, but that the system could be promptly reinstalled if a new and possibly harmful variety emerges.