On Sunday the US removed the requirement for vaccinated people from abroad to have a negative Covid test prior to entering the country. This means that they will not have to obtain a pre-departure test before taking a flight to the US. Unvaccinated people who are not US citizens or US immigrants will not be allowed on a plane to the US. However, the removal of restrictions on vaccinated passengers, who will only have to show proof of vaccination on arrival, is a sign that pandemic restrictions have largely been lifted.
Response From the Airlines
The news has been broadly welcomed by the airlines who will no doubt be pleased with the reduction in administrative time and expense and an increase in demand for flights. On its Twitter account, United Airlines describes it as the news that people have been waiting for, as stated in the website Simple Flying. Many American airlines were actively lobbying the government for the relaxation of restrictions.
Delta Airlines has positively commended the US administration’s decision to lift the requirement of testing for vaccinated persons. It has also added that it feels that this will no doubt improve the economic situation in the US and that this is welcome news to travellers who are ready to get back and see the world. Southwest Airlines has issued a similar statement saying that it has long anticipated that this news would come out. However, the airline does say that passengers coming to the US will still need certification of their vaccination status and required health attestations.
The US Travel Association claims that removing testing requirements will attract 5.4 million more passengers to the US and will increase travel spending by 12%. However, at the moment there is chaos in the aviation industry as it struggles to cope with a surge in demand for flights at a time when it has staff shortages due to downsizing during the pandemic. However, an increase in demand gives airlines the opportunity to raise fares improving profitability and possibly speeding up the process of staff recruitment as this may enable them to raise pay levels.
Covid testing added a lot of expense and inconvenience to the travelling public and many were put off travelling because of increased cost and time spent. So at least from a passenger’s perspective, the immediate costs of having to get a test will no longer be there. However, people will be wondering if this situation is likely to remain. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which is the organisation in the US tasked with the responsibility for making the decision to lift the requirement, the decision will be re-evaluated in 90 days. The US government has also warned that it will reinstate the requirement if another variant of concern arises.
As one can see there is uncertainty over whether the lifting of the requirement for vaccinated citizens to have a Covid test before entering the US is going to be permanent. However, from the airlines’ perspective, the fact that restrictions have been mainly removed is welcome news and a reward for their active lobbying. From a passenger perspective, this is also good news, provided airlines do not oversell tickets and maintain the numbers of passengers at a level where they can manage. Passengers will no doubt benefit from the reduced expense and time needed to get a test done before travelling. Overall, therefore, positive news for both airlines and passengers provided that passenger numbers are managed effectively.
Have you had to take Covid tests before travelling? How will the removal of this mandate affect your travel plans?