U.S. airlines call for testing to replace bans

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JetBlue at JFK [Credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock.com]
Airlines for America, which represents JetBlue and several other U.S. carriers, wants a global Cover-testing regime to replace entry bans. Photo Credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

U.S. airlines have asked the Trump administration to replace entry bans on travelers from the EU, the U.K. and Brazil with a global testing regime for all travelers entering the U.S.

Doing so, wrote Airlines for America (A4A) CEO Nick Calio in a Monday letter to Vice President Mike Pence, will be an efficient way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while opening up economic activity. 

"We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blank travel restrictions currently in place," Calio wrote. A4A represents American, Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska, Hawaiian and cargo carriers Atlas Air, Federal Express and UPS. 

A4A's push follows the CDC's late-December decision to require testing for all flyers from the U.K. in an effort to slow the spread of a new Covid-19 strain, which transmits with 70% more ease than the predominant virus strain. It also follows a decision by Canada to require proof of a negative Covid-19 test for all inbound flyers beginning Thursday. 

Both the U.S. and Canadian governments, however, layered testing requirements on top of existing travel bans. A4A wants tests to replace bans. 

U.S. airlines have pushed for more assertive government support in the implementation of testing protocols since the summer. But Monday's call for a transition by the federal government away from travel bans and to uniform testing requirements in as soon as 14 days was A4A's biggest ask yet. The carriers also said that the less reliable rapid antigen tests should be allowed under the global U.S. protocol in addition to the more accurate molecular PCR tests.

In an email, CDC spokesperson Jason McDonald said the agency is reviewing the efficacy of a global testing program.

"Efforts are currently ongoing in the United States to assess the risk reduction associated with testing and other recommended preventative measures, determine what a feasible testing regime for air travel may look like and gain some level of agreement on standards for a harmonized approach to testing for international air travel," he said.

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