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Delta CEO Calls Proposed Domestic Flight COVID-19 Testing a “Horrible Idea”

Delta CEO Calls Proposed Domestic Flight COVID-19 Testing a “Horrible Idea”
Joe Cortez

Another airline executive is denouncing the idea of making COVID-19 tests mandatory before domestic flights. In an interview, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian called the proposed plan a “horrible idea,” and said the plans would not make flying safer than it currently is.

Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian is the latest to decry a proposal to make all domestic flyers take a COVID-19 test prior to departure. In an interview with CNN, the airline leader called a testing plan a “horrible idea.”

Mandatory Testing Prior to Departure “Will Not Keep Domestic Flyers Safer”

Under current regulations, everyone flying inbound into the United States must take a COVID-19 test prior to their departure. In addition, some domestic destinations – including Hawaii – require all travelers to take an exam from a select number of providers prior to their travel.

After the White House issued an executive order requiring anyone aboard publicly-available transportation to wear a face covering, the idea was floated to expand testing to domestic flights. However, Bastian says a testing regimen would not be in the public’s best interest.

“It will not keep domestic flyers safer,” Bastian said in the broadcast interview. The CEO went on to say that “[There are] very, very few documented cases globally,” of the novel Coronavirus being transmitted aboard aircraft.

Bastian instead pointed to the evidence provided by the airlines which suggests that there is a minimal risk of catching the virus from flying aboard an aircraft. Between the mandatory use of face coverings and the use of HEPA filters, airline leaders claim flying is safer than many everyday tasks.

“There has got to be common sense medicine and science really driving this,” Bastian said, adding that testing “…would set us back another year in the recovery.”

Although airlines and airports have made face coverings mandatory, it hasn’t stopped flyers with the virus from traveling by air. At least two flyer deaths have been connected to COVID-19, with the most recent happening aboard a United flight in December 2020.

Bastian Becomes Second CEO to Speak Out Against Mandatory Tests

With his statements, Bastian is the second leader to express frustrations with the proposed COVID-19 testing plan. During statements on his end-of-year earnings call, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker was also pessimistic about mandatory testing for domestic flights.

View Comments (16)


  1. jjmoore

    February 11, 2021 at 4:40 am

    The effectiveness of HEPA filtration FAR FAR FAR exceeds any benefit of a face mask. Basic particle science proves that. Don’t believe this? Look it up for yourself.

    THIS explains why there is no spread of the virus on aircraft (turn over the entire volume of air in 60-90sec and filter through a system that can take out particles down to 0.02 micron which captures 100% of virus particles of any type).

    Anyone that wants to argue masks, please cite me an example of a place where masking has shown a statistically significant improvement / reduction in virus spread. Show me that, and we can continue the debate. Otherwise, rest in peace, and stop looking to MSM for narratives to parrot on this topic.

  2. c502cid

    February 11, 2021 at 4:42 am

    What?! A CEO who gets it? The NPR “Follow the $cience” crowd will not be happy, no sir, not happy at all. Don’t worry, they still have air wahhhhbulances to carry you to your destination.

  3. vargha

    February 11, 2021 at 5:17 am

    A rare moment of sanity from airline upper management, albeit probably for the wrong reasons.

  4. rylan

    February 11, 2021 at 5:59 am

    Good for him, and he is correct. Making everyone get a test before getting on domestic flights will be a total mess. At that point we might as well just go into full country-wide lockdown, since thats worked sooooo well in other places. *eyeroll*

    What else does the govt want, mandatory test to cross state borders ground? How about going to the store? Put in test requirements for other public transportation like buses and trains? While we’re at it, lets install something in cars so that it won’t start until you provide a finger stick blood sample?

  5. amya1224

    February 11, 2021 at 6:42 am

    If the process for Hawai’i is anything to go by – which is doable, but cumbersome to say the least – expanding the testing to domestic flights in general would be a disaster. Expense; conflicting directions; limitations on testing sites and quick turnaround requirements will be extremely hard to scale. More to the point, they will create yet another deterrent to flying, which I suspect is a big part of the pushback from airlines, the other one being the infrastructure requirements and expense they would have to bear to implement.

  6. tvon

    February 11, 2021 at 7:56 am

    let him know he’ll still make 6 figures a year, regardless. So just do the testing, maybe?

  7. PDog

    February 11, 2021 at 8:16 am

    “In addition, some domestic destinations – including Hawaii – require all travelers to take an exam from a select number of providers prior to their travel.” – As a Hawaiʻi resident I need to weigh in on this. Our Trusted Partner Program is a farce. The majority of the partners are not labs or doctors. You administer the test to yourself while a non medical individual watches. That person then sends your sample to the lab. Or, you send your own sample via UPS.

    If this was a true program of health and safety, medical personnel, not new companies that do no accept medical insurance and popped up overnight, would administer the tests. I’d like to know how much the kick backs are to the governor over this.

  8. Aloha1

    February 11, 2021 at 10:09 am

    Looks like common sense went out the window in Washington DC on January 20.

  9. wrongwy

    February 11, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    Can’t the airlines adopt doctor office protocol? For routine dentist and doctor office visit, get your temp checked and attest you haven’t been exposed. This simple and LOW cost screening would have prevented the incident where the guy was deathly sick with covid on the flight. The costs of nonstop covid tests enrich the medical labs. $129 here, $179 there adds up and not reimbursable by your insurer unless you claim you’ve been exposed. And, then insurance premiums go up. Talked to a woman flying to see parents in southern Mexico. A covid cost to fly back to the states $75 which is a huge amount of money for locals. Time for common sense ways, which supposedly we are all doing, to keep us healthy and applaud this CEO.

  10. aldosanta

    February 11, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Nothing worthwhile is easy. America has been led into a dark Covid black hole. Someone tries to do something about it and Americans talk about freedom. So happy to live in Australia with approx 900 dead and life pretty much as normal as you can get in the middle of a pandemic. BTW America PANDEMIC means a virus/disease that there is no cure for that people die from. America 27.4 million cases and 473,000 dead from Covid19. We are all free to live and die. Personally I will stick to the first option and follow the rules laid down by the Australian government.

  11. fly4red

    February 11, 2021 at 2:18 pm

    One can get infected at the airport, while boarding and deplaning when distancing is not maintained. Also, HEPA filters on the aircraft are not engaged until the engines run. I salute this intent of mandatory testing.

  12. sfoeuroflyer

    February 11, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Here is some basic math. The airlines are losing billions…even with billions in government support. I favor reasonable measures to jump start travel again. These measures do NOT include PCR testing…which is slow, cumbersome and costly. I would support a massive antigen testing program done at the airport with results in 15 minutes OR demonstration that a person has been vaccinated. we could fund that to the tune of a billion and save money over what we are doing now. Yes, antigen tests aren’t perfect. But neither is a PCR test. Everyone forgets that perfect is the enemy of the good. The search for perfect is killing us.


    February 12, 2021 at 5:25 am

    He is right.

  14. rmadisonwi

    February 12, 2021 at 8:11 am

    It’s not about whether you can transmit COVID on a plane. Folks with COVID simply shouldn’t be traveling.

  15. DeltaFlyer123

    February 12, 2021 at 8:24 am

    I think from a health perspective, this rule is not motivated by risks aboard airplanes but by risks associated with the airports themselves, I’ve travelled over two million miles on Delta, have a great deal of respect for Ed Bastian, but also well understand where crowds gather and could become exposed to transmission of the virus.
    For example, the line at the check-in counter and bag drop-off, at the TSA check point, the “plane train” (as it’s called it at ATL), in the shops and eating areas, in the gate areas, and finally on the boarding bridge, Getting to the airplane safely is a relief. Then at the destination, the same in reverse, except the bag claim instead of the drop-off. In addition to that, at one end of the journey, more than likely the airport hotel or car rental shuttle bus, which does not have the sophisticated air filtration and recirculation system that the airplanes do.
    From the airlines’ perspective, I agree it’s a hassle that may discourage some passengers from flying, and they’re hurting, and I certainly don’t want Delta fo fail because I have a stake in it too – still have a lot of miles “in the bank” that I can spend on tickets, not to mention the perks that come with lifetime gold status.
    So I suggest Ed work out the details rather than vilify the lawmakers who want to protect people. This would not have turned into such a serious health issue had people just cooperated by wearing masks to protect other people near them (yeah, that’s really an inconvenience!) and practiced all the other simple things that people who understand these issues recommended.
    I’m really disappointed by Ed’s remarks. He has become part of the problem rather than the solution.

  16. Dublin_rfk

    February 12, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    Follow the science? Like closing schools and restaurants, RIGHT!!

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