U.S. Airlines Ask Biden Administration To End Testing Requirement For International Travel

Last week I explained why the requirement for a negative Covid-19 test to fly to the U.S. offers little benefit and doesn’t make sense at this stage.

I explained all of the scenarios in which a continued testing requirement would at least be coherent but none of those are situations we’re currently in.

  • The testing requirement doesn’t actually keep out infected people (since antigen tests taken a day before departure will only capture a portion of infections)
  • Or keep out new variants (which are incubating in the U.S. population given widespread infection


  • The virus is already spreading widely in the U.S., so this doesn’t ‘keep the virus out’
  • Vaccines and boosters are already available, allowing most Americans to be protected against severe outcomes anyway
  • Outstanding treatments are about to become more widely available

It seems I’m not the only one that finds these specific arguments to be a persuasive reason to drop testing requirements to fly to the U.S. They’re the exact same arguments deployed by the U.S. airline industry in a new letter to the White House requesting that they drop the testing requirement.

“Doing so is justified by the pervasiveness of COVID cases in all 50 states, increased immunity and higher vaccination rates as well as new treatments,” said an industry letter to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients, which was seen by CNBC.

My take continues to be that,

  1. The transportation mask mandate will end before election day
  2. Restrictions on foreigners are politically stronger, so it takes real lobbying by the industry (it would help to get Sara Nelson on board) to move the needle
  3. It would be especially awkward to drop a testing requirement right after the Biden administration started mailing tests to everyone. Leave aside that only some of those tests can be used for travel, it creates a bad optic to say testing isn’t important and we’re sending everyone tests.

Hopefully the industry’s muscle here is enough to end the practice and take a step back to normalcy.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary – It is simple what ends the testing, masking, vaccine mandates.

    When more countries end their mandates like UK, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and who knows next, it will simply be the masses which will dictate policy to the USA. People will chose travel to those countries which make it easy. It is as simple as that!

    When parents from other countries visit NYC, like a recent article mentioned, find they are not able to enter a restaurant because their children are not vaccinated and not legally allowed to be vaccinated in their home country what does that message send back to their home countries?? GO the fck somewhere else!

    Have a good day.

  2. That and lifting the mandatory mask mandate are long overdue. But you’re high if you think this feckless administration is going to do anything about it.

  3. This morning I wrote my senators, representative and the White House variations on the following. Anyone who wants is welcome to contact them as well. Perhaps is many folks wrote Biden somebody there would notice that this policy isn’t popular. Or needed.

    I respectfully add my voice to the recent petition by America’s airlines to end COVID testing before a person can fly to the United States. For several reasons this is a completely unnecessary requirement.
    First, it obviously makes no difference to the presence of the virus in our country. It is everywhere and it is staying. In any case, not requiring testing for those coming by land or sea clearly shows the futility of any argument that this policy keeps it out. It seems that the legal basis for stopping communicable diseases from entering the United States is being stretched pretty far by limiting it to just to one mode of transportation.
    Second, the testing is not entirely accurate. One can be infected while traveling, and since there are no tests for domestic travel the whole thing becomes rather pointless for those entering the country. There is also the possibility of false test results being available for a price, and that has allegedly occurred at some resorts. (Conversely getting tested in some remote areas may be almost impossible.)
    Also, there are always a certain number of false negatives and positives, especially when one has recovered from an infection. Some weeks ago I was mildly infected and made a quick recovery, thanks to have had three vaccinations. But I may still test positive for months. Per my airline’s policy I have a letter from my physician stating that I am safe to travel. He said that he’s writing four of these a day. What in the world is the point of all this?
    With commercial planes now having improved air filter systems and masks still being required on them it is hard to see what existing policies do. The only effect seems to be to harass travelers with an additional activity and its associated expense. And the airlines are right; by reducing foreign travel this is economically costly for their industry while not reducing risks.

  4. @Todd – I would normally agree with your “let the market dictate” argument. Except, over the last 2 yrs, we have seen a number of cases where the US policy is completely different, in a number of ways, from the rest of the (civilized) world. For example, in Europe, no country makes kids wear masks to school…yet in here, in the USA, it’s still the case, all over the place.

    I think it would take a massive pressure by all the traveling public, really, everyone, on our elected officials. I completely agree with @drrichard and will parrot what he did (e.g., write my US Senators and US Reps).

  5. Drop the face diaper requirements, too.

    Public support for indefinite diapering is supported only by the foulest authoritarians, like Ryanair’s CEO.

  6. @ Gennady

    There is one big difference in your statement. Money.

    Masking/vaccines does all sorts of things. Control, fear, makes money for business, etc…

    Loss in tourism, especially to other countries who remove restrictions cause big and small business to lose money. Plus as Gary correctly states we are in an election year. Dems are in big trouble already. This will bury them if not dealt with soon.

    By the way, masking requirements are dependent on who controls the politics/narrative in your home area. My kids have never worn a mask to school and will never ever get vaccinated.

  7. No we absolutely do not need Sara Nelson speaking for anyone other than herself and the flight attendants at the airlines that she represents – and no more.
    There are multiple airline flight attendant unions and she is just one of them. And there are non-union flight attendant workforces as well.

  8. “…it creates a bad optic to say testing isn’t important and we’re sending everyone tests.”

    Governments and “bad optics”? Wow, will wonders never cease.

  9. Do you actually expect THIS administration to do ANYTHING even remotely resembling sensible??? LOL!

    To quote Bugs Bunny: “That is for to laugh!”

  10. Bwahahahaha, Just as I predicted in my comments here 3 month ago.

    Sooner or later the industry will yank a knot in each country’s respective ass and ALL restrictions will be lifted.

    Follow the money

  11. According to REUTERS, international airlines and IATA also are pushing the Biden Administration to drop testing requirements.
    I suppose BIden could save face and take the middle road by removing the testing requirement for fully vaccinated people, while leaving it in place for the unvaxxed and partially vaxxed.

  12. If they’d just baby step back to the 3 day requirement from the 1 day, I’d be happier.

    Some have no clue the hoops you jump through to even get a 3 day in a foreign country,much less the 1 day and trying to fly back across time zones.

  13. @drrichard: Great idea, I will do the same. What email address did you use for the White House? (I know the contact details of my local reps and senators). Thanks.

  14. Agreed. COVID testing should be for those who are regularly around immunocompromised people, not for those going about everyday business. Making travelers get tested is relatively a lot of effort for very little payoff. All the test tells you is that, “72-24 hours ago, this person did not have enough virus in their system to trip a test.” That person could still develop symptoms the next day and board the plane, “negative” test in hand. That person could contract it ON the plane. That person could contract it during their travels. So what’s the point?

    If the US or any country wants to do something meaningful, require vaccination (from non-citizens) to enter as tourists. The unvaccinated are more likely to contract serious COVID-19, require hospitalization and develop more serious symptoms that contribute to greater spread. They are more likely to place a burden on the health care system of the country they are visiting. Plus, vaccination is easy and can be done months before travel, making it less burdensome for airlines than testing is. Travelers can book a test (if not yet vaccinated) and book a trip– and be confident they won’t get stranded/denied travel.

  15. @Gennady – no country in Europe makes kids wear masks to school except Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Greece, and probably many more- I got bored looking.

    @ Todd- the main thing that masks and vaccines do is stop the spread of covid. I don’t understand why some covidiots are so opposed to them- all it does is prolong the outbreak.

  16. George please cite any evidence at all that masks and vaccines stop the spread of Covid. Your statement was either satirical – in which case I say “it is to laugh” or you’re the Covidiot to which I say “what a maroon”

  17. The fact that the White House didn’t immediately shoot this down is interesting. That makes me think that this may actually happen.

  18. Normalcy: wishful thinking when more people die every day than they did on 9/11 TWO years since the pandemic started.

    And the lunatics are giving in to the virus more and more every day, willfully spreading misinformation right and left.

    Never thought I’d see the day the US turned into a country dominated by whining quitters with no care of Country and the protection of it Citizens. Amazing and very sad for Americans.

  19. @George said: ” masks and vaccines do is stop the spread of covid”

    You’re completely wrong, their do neither. The cloth masks everyone uses do nothing to stop the spread. Neither does vaccine – see the spread of omicron. A good proper mask, like KN-95 which I use, works while it’s new, which is why doctors and nurses use it. Vaccines help you to get a lighter case of COVID (which I did, both vaccines and COVID), they do NOT prevent the spread.

    I would consider your info about kids, schools in Europe, and such, but clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about. So I will ignore the rest of your message.

  20. Nothing makes me confident that human kind is past it’s time and or needs the guidance of a benign dictator, like watching people express their opinions…

  21. @George: “The U.S. has been an outlier about masking policies for children throughout the pandemic. In Europe, young children were never required to mask in schools, even before vaccinations were widely available. Children under 12 rarely had to wear masks all day, and never outdoors during recess or sports activities, as many American children are still forced to do. The World Health Organization recommends that children under 5 should never mask; and that children under 12 should wear masks only under certain conditions, and only after taking into account the negative masking has been shown to have on learning and social development.”

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