Airlines Push White House To Scrap Covid Test Mandate For Vaccinated International Travelers


Lobbying group Airlines for America urged the White House on Wednesday to drop a rule requiring vaccinated passengers to test for Covid-19 ahead of U.S.-bound international flights, hoping to stimulate an air travel industry slow to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Key Facts

Airlines for America—which represents several domestic airlines—argued dropping the testing mandate for vaccinated flyers is justified because Covid-19 is already pervasive across the United States, immunity and vaccination rates have increased and treatments have improved, in a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients signed by 29 organizations connected to the travel industry.

Airlines for America said testing rules for vaccinated people discourage travel, and claimed many people have chosen not to travel internationally due to mandatory pre-departure testing because they are unwilling to risk being barred from reentry into the United States.

The group also argued loosening restrictions on vaccinated travelers would encourage more people to take the Covid-19 vaccines.

The letter referenced a study conducted for the International Air Transport Association and Airports Council International Europe that found travel testing rules had little impact on the spread of the coronavirus’ omicron variant in Italy and Finland, likely because the restrictions were put in place after the variant began circulating.

Anybody traveling to the United States by air is required to take a Covid-19 test within one day of departure, regardless of their vaccination status, a policy the Biden Administration tightened from a previous three-day testing mandate in December, part of a bid to limit omicron’s spread. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Key Background

Air travel has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. International travel fell by 75% from 2019 to 2021, Airlines for America reported, even as domestic travel began to recover from its 2020 slump last year. The United States tightly restricted nonessential travel from many countries for much of the pandemic, and the federal government began requiring people flying to the U.S. to test negative for Covid-19 within three days of departure under the Trump Administration in January 2021. The UK plans to drop a rule for air travelers similar to the Biden Administration’s single-day testing requirement beginning February 11.


Even though Covid-19 transmission rates are still high, and the United States has averaged more than 2,000 Covid-19 deaths per day in the last week, domestic air travel seems to be picking back up. About 1.2 million people passed through Transport Security Administration checkpoints on Tuesday, more than double the rate on the same day in 2021.

Further Reading

“Airlines, travel groups ask Biden administration to drop Covid testing before international flights” (CNBC)