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US airlines fight back against domestic pre-flight COVID testing

written by Hannah Dowling | January 29, 2021

File image of an AA tail (Source: American Airlines).

US airlines have pushed back against the potential Biden administration policy that would see pre-flight COVID-19 testing before all domestic flights.

The Biden administration said earlier this week it was “actively looking” into mimicking current overseas travel risk management measures with domestic pre-flight COVID-19 testing, in order to get the country’s spread of the virus under control.

The new domestic testing requirement would largely extend the administration’s newly introduced mandatory requirement for all overseas arrivals into the US to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than three days prior to their flight.

Major domestic players in the US have warned that extending said pre-flight testing policy to domestic travellers could impact already subdued demand for air travel throughout the country, and raised concerns at the current capacity for testing.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said that while his airline would work with the government, he also expressed his own concerns.

“We certainly want to make sure it is something that would restrict demand,” Parker said, noting that demand for domestic travel in the US still remains a fraction of pre-COVID levels.

“No one has talked to us officially about doing that – and if they do we will do our best to make sure we stress how safe it is to fly,” he added.


Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said that the focus should be on the continued rollout of the vaccine and asked lawmakers, “Why pick on air travel?”

Kelly also stressed his opinion that the US doesn’t have “adequate testing capacity for the country in the first place”.

“It’s just unrealistic to expect that we can efficiently and effectively do testing on a larger scale,” he said.

With a similar sentiment in mind, JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty said that she was concerned that the requirement could take away access to facilities for people who otherwise need to get a COVID-19 test for legitimate health reasons.

“Frankly, we’re concerned that it would actually reduce the ability of some people who legitimately need to get tested for health reasons,” she said.

This all comes as public health officials are warning Americans against travel.

Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, stated that under current circumstances, “it is not a good idea to travel, period”.

“If you absolutely have to travel and it’s essential, then obviously, one would have to do that. But we don’t want people to think because they got vaccinated that other public health recommendations just don’t apply,” Dr Fauci said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said on Wednesday that the conversation on pre-flight COVID testing for domestic travellers is “ongoing”.

The US has seen over 25 million cases of COVID-19 since March 2020, and over 420,000 deaths.


  • Kenneth


    It seems like air travel has become the target world wide. What about Greyhound bus travel. Is it better to sit 14 hours on a bus, or 1-2 hours in an aircraft? Haven’t heard that bus passenger will have to be tested before departure, or train passenger for that sake.

  • Ben


    Sad that the airline CEO’s are concerned about the bottom line and not the health of the nation. As Dr Fauci has stated, the restriction on demand is the actual point here… people should not be flying unless its essential. To borrow from Dan Andrews “you have to fix the health problem before you fix the economy”.

  • Rodney V Ellis


    Blind freddy can see that the only way to stop this virus from spreading is to ‘stay in your own backyard’!! Lock down for a couple of weeks and get on top of it. Businesses will suffer but in the final outcome, things will return and be better.

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