Airlines urge White House to end COVID international travel testing rules

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Travelers wearing protective face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) collect their luggage at an airport in Denver, Colorado, U.S., November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Major airlines, businesses and travel groups on Wednesday urged the White House to end pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the United States.

Airlines for America, the US Chamber of Commerce, the International Air Transport Association, the Aerospace Industries Association, the US Travel Association and other groups called for change in a letter to the response coordinator to the White House coronaviruses, Jeff Zients.

“Airline passenger surveys indicate that pre-departure testing is a key factor in deciding not to travel overseas. People just don’t want to risk not being able to return to the United States” , they wrote.

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The White House declined to comment. Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc , United Airlines Holdings and others, said last week international air travel was down 38% from 2019 levels.

In December, the Biden administration imposed new, stricter rules requiring international air travelers arriving in the United States to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel.

Under the previous rules, vaccinated international air travelers could present a negative test result obtained within three days of their day of departure.

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have previously considered but never imposed testing requirements for Americans to board domestic flights.

The letter notes that more than 74.3 million people have had COVID-19 in the United States, meaning at least 22% of the population has had the virus.

“It is clear that COVID is widespread across the United States and attempts to control its importation by air under current circumstances are unlikely to change that fact,” he said.

If new threatening variants appeared, “pre-departure testing could be easily reinstated”, he added.

The European Union has recommended countries remove intra-European COVID travel restrictions, the letter notes. Britain will end pre-departure COVID testing for vaccinated air travelers to enter the country from February 11.

The groups said “the resumption of travel and aviation depends on the government taking action to remove travel restrictions that are no longer warranted by current circumstances.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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