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Travel Groups Want to Drop Virus Testing for International Vaccinated Flyers

A group of 29 travel industry organizations are asking the White House to drop COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated international flyers, claiming it would help international travel to recover.
As more people around the world get vaccinated against COVID-19, over 25 travel organizations are asking the White House to reconsider their position on mandatory testing prior to international arrival into the country.


In an open letter to White House Coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients, the group is asking for COVID-19 testing requirements to be dropped for fully vaccinated travelers.


Request to Drop Based on Global Recommendations, U.S. Infection Rate

The letter was signed by some of the most prominent groups in the travel and aviation industries, including Airlines for America, Airports Council International-North America, the International Air Transport Association and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. Their request to drop pre-arrival testing is based on several factors, including the spread of the novel Coronavirus across the U.S. and the number of fully vaccinated individuals.


According to the group, over 74 million Americans – or roughly 22 percent – were infected with COVID-19. For comparison purposes, the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center estimates the confirmed infection count at over 75 million. Because “Clearly COVID is widespread throughout the U.S.,” they argue that attempting to control the virus spread via air travel is “unlikely to change that fact.”


They also cite the approach recommended by the World Health Organization, which calls for a “risk-based approach.” By allowing travelers who have been fully inoculated with a vaccine “listed by the WHO for emergency use or approved by a stringent regulatory authority at least two weeks prior to international travel,” airlines can encourage more cross-border passenger traffic.


“We share the Administration’s commitment to getting as many people fully vaccinated and boosted as possible and believe removal of this impediment for vaccinated travel will further incentivize vaccinations,” the letter reads. “Travel and aviation’s recovery is dependent on the government taking steps to remove travel restrictions that are no longer justified by current circumstances.”


Leaders at the White House have not publicly responded to the letter.


Aviation Leaders Torn on Face Mask Usage Aboard Aircraft

The request for less stringent requirements for international arrivals comes as airline executives are divided on how to approach the face mask requirement aboard aircraft. Britain’s Sky News reports leaders from Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic plan to keep face coverings mandatory, while new Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan told CNBC: “I’m hopeful as you look forward toward the summer, maybe in into the rest of ’22, we’ll see the masks come off.”


Feature image courtesy: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

AsiaTravel2019 February 7, 2022

Time to end the Covid theater. If you're vaccinated, ditch the testing and masks. 

downinit February 4, 2022

I can deal with the mask mandate going away, but only if there is some kind of requirement that anyone who is actively coughing/sneezing on board must wear an N95/FFP2 mask.  Obviously, one or two coughs or choking on food is not an issue, but someone who keeps coughing uncontrollably should absolutely wear a mask, regardless of covid. In the absence of this common sense rule (which would never be implemented due to the chorus of 'freedumb!'), I am perfectly happy to have them keep the mask rule in perpetuity. It seems like I used to get sick on half of the TATL/TPAC flights I went on precovid, because there was always some completely indifferent infectious individual intent on infecting everyone else on board. That said, the testing requirement for vaccinated/boosted people definitely has to go ASAP.

Gizzabreak February 3, 2022

The continuing (and initial) 'masks onboard'  requirement makes a mockery of the reported standard of cabin air, with its alleged surgical grade filtering and claimed vast rate of 'turnover/exchanges'.

Spanish February 3, 2022

Time to get rid of these mask mandates and required testing.  Vaccines have been available for quite some time now, if someone's not innoculated at this point it's not my problem.

strickerj February 3, 2022

I agree the requirement should be dropped, but the advocates' argument here doesn't make sense. Dropping the testing requirement for vaccinated travelers implies the vaccinated don't contract or spread the virus, which we've known for months isn't the case. And pushing the change as a way to help travel rebound will just fall on deaf ears.

Instead, the argument should be based on the facts that there's no way to stop the spread (as evidenced by similar results between places with strict restrictions and those without), and that COVID in general and Omicron in particular are far less deadly than initially thought. Using number of cases as the measuring stick of the pandemic has been a fool's errand.