This past month, the Airlines for America’s (A4A) board of directors sent a letter to President Joe Biden and members of his administration, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging them to drop federal Covid-19 restrictions, including international predeparture testing and the passenger mask mandate. The letter was signed by CEOs from American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Air Group, JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines, as well as the former CEO and now chairman of Southwest Airlines.
Similarly, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has called on governments in Europe, Canada, U.S. and Latin America to end Covid-19 testing requirements for vaccinated travelers. According to GBTA, corporations are reluctant to send people back on the road in large part due to the complexity and inconsistency of international testing requirements and entry/exist rules.
Understanding new variants will continue to evolve as we are experiencing with the Omicron ba.2 variant, how the governments respond to these requests relies heavily on the guidance from the World Health Organization, CDC as well as input from major economic regions.
Removal of Testing and Requirements
The intent of the original predeparture testing requirements was designed to slow the introduction of the Covid-19 virus and its variants into the United States. The perspective in the letter form the Airlines for America stated it has ‘outlived its utility and stymies the return of international travel.”
Many countries have already lifted the requirement for testing of fully vaccinated travelers including the U.K. and members of the European Union, as well as plans for the Canadian government who stated on March 17, that they will get rid of the pre-entry measure for people arriving by air, land or water as of April 1.
The letter by A4A went on to remind the administration that the CDC’s stance that “99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors” along with two independent studies that concluded that “an airplane cabin is one of the safest indoor environments due to the combination of highly filtered air and constant air flow coupled with the downward direction of air.”
This past month, Travel Incorporated had the pleasure of moderating a discussion with Delta Air Lines’ Chief Health Officer, Dr. Henry Ting, who outlined his professional perspective on One-Way Masking. He stated that we have the ability to “‘protect yourself even if no one else is wearing masks.” Dr. Ting continues, “Covid is transitioning from a pandemic and a national public health emergency towards an ordinary seasonal virus, not much different than the flu and the common cold.”
A recent statement posted on Delta’s website from CEO Ed Bastian said, “Current data and science shows it’s time to move from mandates to guidance and personal health choices.”
While the business travel community is on a path of recovery and resurgence in travel, the choices made by governments, health organizations and individual travelers are expected to adapt and adopt to the changes ahead. The current mask mandate for all public transportation is in place through April 18.