WASHINGTON (AFP): An international coalition of travel-related organizations called on the US government Wednesday to stop requiring vaccinated passengers to present a negative Covid test before boarding US-bound flights.
“Travel and aviation’s recovery is dependent on the government taking steps to remove travel restrictions that are no longer justified by current circumstances,” the group argued in a letter addressed to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients.
Among the 29 signatories were the main advocacy organizations representing Asian, European and US airlines, as well as the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Travel Association.
The leader of the group, Airlines for America — which represents major US carriers including American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines — posted the letter to its website.
The three companies recently noted that the Omicron variant would delay their recovery by one to two months.
“Clearly COVID is widespread throughout the US and attempts to control its importation via air travel under today’s circumstances are unlikely to change that fact,” they argued in the letter.
The coalition also pointed to the European Union, which recommended member countries lift restrictions for travel between European countries, as well as the United Kingdom, which has decided to lift pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated passengers.
“Surveys of air passengers indicate that pre-departure testing is a leading factor in the decision not to travel internationally,” they noted, adding that people do not want to risk getting stuck abroad if they test positive.
“As a result, international travel in 2021 was 75 percent below 2019 levels.”
The group added that if a new threatening variant appeared, “pre-departure testing could be easily reinstituted.”
After the catastrophic year all airlines had in 2020, American Airlines and United both lost money in 2021 — about $2 billion each.
Delta, on the other hand, was able to eke out a small profit of about $280 million.
In addition to the pandemic upheaval, airlines have also had to deal with rising costs for labor and fuel, as well as the messy rollout of new 5G technology in the United States, which disrupted some flights over fears of interference with some flight equipment.