The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance for international travel, requiring that all air travelers show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their scheduled flight before they travel to the United States. The testing requirement for international travelers went into effect on January 26.
While the international testing decision has support from some airline unions, the possibility of testing all domestic air travelers is less popular.
Earlier this week, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Axios on HBO that there was an “active conversation” with the CDC about implementing a domestic testing policy for air travelers and later told CNN that the CDC was “looking at all its options.”
“What we know is that it’s the appropriate measure for international travel, people traveling into the U.S. given some of those considerations,” Buttigieg told CNN on Monday.
“I’d say the domestic picture is very different, but you know, the CDC is always evaluating what can best be done to keep Americans safe.” When contacted for further comment, the Department of Transportation pointed Newsweek to Buttigieg’s earlier comments.
The airline industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as leaders in the U.S. implemented lockdowns that caused domestic and international travel to plummet.
During a recent interview with the Associated Press, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian predicted domestic travel “would be substantially reduced” if all travelers are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before flying in the United States. “We don’t have the facility or the technology or capabilities to be administering or monitoring domestic testing,” Bastian said.
Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, also expressed concern about implementing a COVID-19 testing requirement for domestic travelers in a February 9 letter addressed to Biden.
“We believe such a mandate would be counterproductive, costly, and have serious unintended consequences, 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 wrote.
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, and Airlines for America, a Washington, D.C.-based airline lobbying group, also raised concerns about a possible domestic travel testing requirement.
“Mandatory pre-flight testing would be unwarranted, logistically impractical, and wasteful, and it would seriously threaten the stability of our industry,” President Eric Ferguson with the Allied Pilots Association said in a Wednesday news release.
The union’s release said there were already measures in place to prevent transmission, such as enhanced sanitation and air filtration systems, which the union said helped “commercial aircraft cabins pose a very low risk of virus transmission.”