No More US COVID Tests: How Have Airlines Responded?
The United States lifted its COVID testing requirements on Sunday, with vaccinated passengers from abroad no longer needing a negative test result to enter the country. We take a closer look at how airlines have responded to the change.
No more COVID entry tests
Airlines had long lobbied the US government to lift its travel restrictions before last week's announcement that COVID testing would be dropped. On Sunday, testing requirements for vaccinated international travelers, in place since January 2021, were removed.
Airlines for America, the trade association which counts American Airlines, Delta, United, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Southwest among its members, played a crucial role in lobbying Washington to enact the changes.
Airlines for America President and CEO, Nicholas E. Calio, said,
"We are pleased that the pre-departure testing requirement has been eliminated for international air travelers who are eager to visit or return home to the United States. The airline industry appreciates the Administration’s decision to lift the pre-departure testing requirement in accordance with the current epidemiological environment."
US airlines celebrate the news
Since the changes were announced on Friday, US carriers have welcomed what is sure to encourage more people to fly internationally. Airlines for America said that in May 2022, while domestic travel came within 7% of 2019 levels, international travel was almost 15% below pre-pandemic figures.
"We commend the administration’s decision to remove the international pre-departure testing requirement for inbound travelers to the U.S. In light of medical advancements and improved public health metrics, removing this pandemic-era policy is not only welcome news to travelers who are ready to get back out and see the world, but will aid in the overall economic recovery of the US."
However, Delta advises that passengers still need to use its Delta FlyReady app to prove vaccination status.
Southwest Airlines issued a similar statement,
"We’ve anticipated this day and are pleased this will make it easier for our customers to move between the 10 countries we serve and the United States. Even with the lapse of the testing requirement, foreign nationals arriving into the US still must present certification of their vaccination status, and required health attestations."
The US Travel Association claims that removing testing requirements will attract around 5.4 million additional travelers to the US this year and increase travel spending by 12%.
Are tests gone for good?
COVID testing entry requirements undoubtedly stifled demand for air travel, with the added expense and often inconvenient testing arrangements putting a lot of people off traveling.
Now that the US has followed other countries in lifting testing requirements, many wonder if this is the last we will see of PCR and rapid antigen tests at airports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said it would reevaluate its decision in 90 days. The government has also warned that it may reinstate testing if another variant of concern should arise.
This article originally appeared on Simple Flying