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Southwest Becomes Latest Airline to Rally Against Pre-Flight COVID-19 Testing

Southwest Becomes Latest Airline to Rally Against Pre-Flight COVID-19 Testing
Joe Cortez

Southwest Airlines is the third airline to publicly decry a proposed plan to require pre-flight COVID-19 testing for domestic flights. In a letter to the president, the airline expressed their “deep concern” about making tests mandatory, as hospitalizations decrease and vaccinations rise.

Southwest Airlines is joining the growing chorus of carriers asking the White House to not impose a pre-travel COVID-19 testing mandate for domestic flights. In a letter to president Joe Biden signed by airline CEO and chairman Gary Kelly, along with eight union leaders, the Dallas-based carrier is requesting the U.S. not force flyers to take tests before boarding an aircraft.

Kelly Claims Tests Would be “Counterproductive, Costly, and Have Serious Unintended Consequences”

In the letter sent to the White House and the heads of the Transportation Department, Homeland Security and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Kelly and others warn that the tests could create major problems for both airlines and passengers. In particular, the chief executive warns that a wide-scale testing requirement could hurt the aviation sector’s recovery even further.

“We believe such a mandate [COVID-19 testing for domestic flyers] would be counterproductive, costly, and have serious unintended consequences,” Kelly writes in the letter. “Including for millions of people who have travel needs but may not have access to testing resources and for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on a stable air travel industry.”

Kelly believes that without the infrastructure to support a widescale effort, it would create an insurmountable burden for both aviation operators and the passengers themselves. Instead, he points to previous industry research, including studies from Harvard University and others printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which suggests there is a relatively low risk of contracting the novel Coronavirus aboard a flight if face coverings are mandatory.

“It would also strain our limited national testing capacity, which is already struggling to meet demand, especially for people of limited means or those in so-called ‘testing deserts,’” Kelly writes. “Most urgently, a nationwide testing requirement would once again put Southwest jobs at risk, undermining a nearly year-long effort to develop and implement the science-based protocols and procedures that make it possible to continue our operations safely.”

Instead of testing, Kelly says that airline-lead safety programs are enough to keep flyers safe. Their program, the “Southwest Promise,” is a multi-tiered plan including mandatory face coverings for flyers, cleaning and disinfecting, along with use of advanced HEPA filters aboard aircraft. The “Promise” ignores the fact that the airline changed cleaning protocols midway into the pandemic and scrapped their plan to block middle seats.

Southwest Latest Airline to Decry Mandatory Testing

With their public appeal, Southwest Airlines is the latest airline to rally against mandatory COVID-19 testing for passengers. In an interview, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian called required testing a “horrible idea,” while American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker also denounced them in the carrier’s 2020 full-year earnings call.

View Comments (3)


  1. SimonT007

    February 12, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Mandatory would be a logistical nightmare. I would seriously consider to stop flying completely, even with the reduced flying I am doing already

  2. sfoeuroflyer

    February 13, 2021 at 8:03 am

    What is frustrating is that the overlords who are dreaming up this stuff do not have a clue how it would work, what it would cost, or how effective it might be. Example: my wife had to show a negative PCR test result from a test within 72 hours of her arrival at a European country. Most of the time it is impossible to even get a test result within 72 hours of the test. It is even more of a challenge if the trip itself consumes nearly 24 hours. Answer: through lots of research found a lab that would deliver a test result within a day and half of the test…not only did that cost $400 but the margin for error was essentially non existent. Miss a connection and one is beyond 72 hours. Do you believe that the people inventing the rule had even the slightest clue as to how impractical and costly the rule would be in reality.

    Worse, there is not even a word about showing a vaccination certificate to avoid all of this.

  3. drvannostren

    February 14, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    I’m assuming one of the points they addressed with the president, maybe just not mentioned here, is the backlog of testing that would cause.

    I mentioned in another article I’d be fine with mandatory testing for everyone, but it’s gotta be the rapid tests and you’ve gotta have enough of them to do that.

    If everyone had to take a PCR test it would be virtually impossible. The original issue I wanted to mention though was the effect that would have on labs/clinicians. They’re already being inundated with testing requests for people who may have been exposed. Add the people who need PCR to travel internationally. Now just imagine adding like 500k+ a day of people who need tests just to go to South Padre, or LA. Again, I’m all for those people getting tested, but you can’t strain the system with that. Gotta be rapid tests.

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