Travel Industry Coalition Pushes Back on Testing for Domestic Flights

Late last week, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) joined with 22 other travel industry groups in expressing concern about the possibility of requiring a negative COVID-19 test to board domestic flights. Currently, travelers boarding flights within the U.S. don’t need to show proof of a negative COVID test result; however, USA Today reports that a top official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a COVID testing requirement for domestic flights is on the table.

In a letter to Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 Recovery Team Coordinator, the coalition noted it “strongly support[s] many aspects of the Executive Order [COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel], such as the Federal mask mandate for interstate travel and pre-departure testing for international arriving passengers.” It adds, however, “we are concerned by recent media reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is considering a pre-departure testing requirement for domestic air travel.”

The case against testing, according to the letter, pointed to three studies regarding air travel and COVID-19: A Harvard Aviation Public Health Initiative study, which found that air travel is as safe as—or substantially safer than—other routine activities, such as eating out and grocery shopping; U.S. TRANSCOM’s series of testing, which concluded that when masks are worn, there is a .003 percent chance that particles exhaled by a passenger can enter the breathing space of passengers sitting next to them; and data published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), showing that, of the 1.2 billion airline passengers who traveled since the beginning of 2020, only 44 cases of in-flight COVID-19 transmission have been reported.

“Given the strong scientific evidence that the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard an aircraft is very low, we believe that a testing requirement for domestic air travel is unwarranted,” the coalition said. “Further, public health and economic data indicate that this policy would disproportionately prevent low-income travelers and rural Americans in small communities from travel.”

Beyond ASTA, other travel industry groups that signed onto the letter include (but are not limited to) Airlines for American, American Hotel and Lodging Association, Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, Global Business Travel Association, National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers, and U.S. Travel Association.

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