LONDON – From January 26, passengers traveling to the United States will need to show negative COVID-19 tests prior to their departure. Airlines will require the results before boarding. The rule exemps passengers with positive test result in the past three months but vaccinated travelers must be tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the new testing rules yesterday. Every passenger above the age of two must show a viral test before boarding. This includes antigen and PCR tests, but not antibody checks. Passengers must perform the test 72 hours before departure.

Photo: JFK


In December, the US started requiring negative for the first time for passengers arriving from the UK. Since then, the new mutation of the virus has appeared in many other countries, including the US. As a result, the CDC recommends testing before and after each trip, including domestic. However, previously to December, the US did not require testing for flights.

Passengers who have already recovered from COVID-19 will need to bring positive test result and/or a certificate of recovery. Airways has reached out to CDC for clarification regarding the details of documentation of such recovery. We have not yet received an answer at the time of writing.

MSP Airport. Picture by: Mateo Skinner / @midwest.spotter

No Mention of Lifting the Travel Ban

The Trump Administration imposed a travel ban for non-residents coming from Schengen countries, the UK and Ireland back in March 2020. The ban still remains in place. However, many believe that the ban does not prevent the spread of the disease but discriminates potential passengers coming from banned countries.

If someone wants to travel from these countries, they have to spend two weeks quarantined in other countries before traveling to the US. The list of countries have no relation to COVID-19 infection rates but all Schengen countries (and UK/Ireland) are on it regardless of their coronavirus prevention rates.

Some in the industry have urged authorities to lift the travel ban and start a testing program for arriving passengers. However, now that the US requires tests, the travel ban still remains in place. Here is a summary of the travel ban:

  • The US has banned non-essential travel from the UK, Ireland, the Schengen Area, Iran, Brazil and China due to COVID-19.
  • If you are traveling to the US, you’ll need to show evidence of a negative PCR test before departure and be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
  • COVID-19 restrictions and penalties for not following government guidelines vary from state to state, so the best thing to do is check the CDC website before you travel.

Featured image: Luca Flores/Airways – @luca_at_lax