A4A Backs Broader Testing In Lieu Of Travel Restrictions

 GoHealth onsite testing at SFO
United Airlines GoHealth onsite COVID-19 testing at SFO.
Credit: United Airlines

WASHINGTON—Airlines For America (A4A) is urging the U.S. government to expand required testing of international airline travelers for COVID-19 and lessen restrictions on travel between the U.S. and foreign destinations.

In a Jan. 4 letter to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, A4A president Nicholas Calio expressed support for a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) effort to expand testing. The CDC on Dec. 28, 2020 began requiring U.K. passengers to produce a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of a scheduled flight to the U.S. Airlines must confirm the tests before passengers board.

“Carriers have provided the CDC and other agencies feedback regarding how we can work to stand up an international testing program quickly,” Calio wrote. “Among the items discussed are an implementation timeline of at least 14 days so that carriers can effectively communicate new requirements to customers and train staff around the world.”

As the testing program expands, travel restrictions should be “removed concurrently” in affected jurisdictions, Calio added, citing Europe, the U.K. and Brazil specifically. News of the letter was first reported by Reuters.

New testing protocols should not follow the blanket approach of current restrictions, Calio said. Among factors that officials should consider as they expand testing requirements are availability of tests in certain locales, and “unique circumstances” such as connecting passengers and U.S. travelers “on short round trips,” he added.

A4A’s call comes as Canada’s airlines grapple with a new layer of restrictions adopted by the country’s government. Canada will require inbound passengers to have a negative test within 72 hours of a scheduled departure starting Jan. 7. All passengers will still be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada, per a requirement in place since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.