MIAMI – The Biden administration is “actively looking” at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing for travelers on US domestic flights, a senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official said on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, Dr. Marty Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at CDC, was asked about whether the administration might employ new domestic travel testing requirements. Cetron replied that there were “conversations that are ongoing and looking at what the types and locations of testing might be… We’re actively looking at it.”

Last week, President Joe Biden directed US agencies to make recommendations to “impose additional public health measures for domestic travel” and to consider new requirements for people crossing land borders. Reuters reported Friday that administration officials said that could include requiring negative COVID-19 tests before flying domestically.

This comes as the US passed 425,000 COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracking project. The country has confirmed more than 25.4 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began.

United Airlines Airbus A319. Photo: Luke Ayers/Airways

Impact on Domestic Travel


An article on skift.com notes that a testing requirement would not curtail domestic air travel. But it does have the potential to severely limit it. One senior executive at a major US airline not authorized to speak publicly described such a move to Skift as possibly “crushing” for the industry.

With most international travel severely restricted to slow the spread of COVID-19, domestic travel has been the saving grace for carriers amid steep losses. For example in Q4 2020, Delta Air Lines (DL) generated nearly 83% of its passenger revenue in the US, up from 74% a year earlier. And United Airlines (UA) generated nearly 75% of passenger revenue in the US up from 64% in 2019, according to the skift.com article.

At this point, only Hawaii mandates proof of a negative COVID-19 test for arriving flyers. The program is widely credited for allowing the state to reopen its tourism economy while also keeping Covid-19 infections low.

“Acquiring the test adds additional expense, the inconvenience adds friction to travel, [and] the validation process at airports is cumbersome,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told investors on Tuesday.

Ingram credited Hawaii’s testing program for enabling the airline to restart flights and begin recovering from the crisis. He added that it took “several months” to build a network of testing providers and options to offer travelers before flights to the islands.

Look to airwaysmag.com for additional information as this story develops.


Featured image: American Airlines Boeing 757-223 N201UU. | Photo © Luca Flores/Airways

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