U.S. Airlines Applaud CDC’s Lifting of COVID-19 Testing Requirement for U.S. Arriving Passengers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rescinded the Order titled, “Requirement for Negative Pre-Departure COVID-19 Test Result or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 for All Airline or Other Aircraft Passengers Arriving Into the United States From Any Foreign Country” (the Order). Under the Order, all air passengers two years or older traveling to the U.S. from a foreign country were required to present a negative COVID-19 test result from a sample taken no more than one day before departure, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, to their airline before boarding a flight. Regardless of its merits as a public health measure, the requirement proved to be burdensome to passengers and airlines, which argued that it deterred international travel and undermined the U.S. airline industry’s recovery from the severe adverse effects of the pandemic.
By way of background, the Order was one of several actions the U.S. government took during earlier phases of the COVID-19 pandemic to help mitigate further transmission and spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. However, because of the “widespread uptake of effective COVID-19 vaccines and accompanying vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, as well as the availability of effective therapeutics,” the CDC “determined that it is not currently necessary to leave the Order in place...”
Airlines for America (A4A), the leading trade association for U.S. airlines, enthusiastically welcomed the CDC’s decision on the basis that it “will help encourage and restore air travel to the U.S., benefiting communities across the country that rely heavily on travel and tourism to support their local economies.” Indeed, the lifting of the testing requirement is expected to have a significant positive impact on international travel to and from the U.S. A May 2022 U.S. Travel Association survey found that more than half (54%) of international travelers pointed to the pre-departure testing requirement as a major deterrent for inbound travel to the U.S., and 46% of international travelers stated they would be more likely to visit the U.S. if the pre-departure testing requirement was lifted. A U.S. Travel Association analysis also found that repealing the pre-departure testing requirement could bring an additional 5.4 million visitors to the U.S. and an additional $9 billion in travel spending for the remainder of 2022.
Global international travel has already started to recover from the pandemic, with the latest United Nations World Tourism Organization Barometer finding that worldwide international arrivals increased 182% year-on-year in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021. With the CDC’s rescission of the pre-departure testing requirement, all signs point to a continued strong recovery.
Separately and of note, however, is the CDC’s requirement that non-U.S. citizen, non-immigrant passengers show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (or that they qualify for an exception) before boarding a flight to the U.S. from a foreign country remains in effect.