A coalition of U.S. airlines, travel trade groups and unions have urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to drop its ‘delay travel’ guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier this month, the CDC published much-anticipated guidance for what people who have received both Coronavirus jabs can and can’t do but controversially kept its air travel rules unchanged.
The CDC currently advises air travelers to “delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19”. For those who ‘must’ travel, the CDC suggests quarantining for 14-days before their flight and taking at least two COVID-19 tests.
Trade groups including Airlines 4 America which represents major U.S. carriers like American, Delta and United Airlines, as well as Hawaiian, jetBlue and Southwest have now called on the Biden administration to develop a roadmap to reopening international travel and dropping CDC travel bans by May 1.
The proposals have also been backed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the U.S. Travel Association, as well as the Association of Flight Attendants and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.
White House sources claim the administration is already considering plans to drop travel bans on Europe, the UK and Brazil by mid-May in what is being seen as a major “step change” in policy to handling the pandemic. Any lifting of restrictions will be dependent on the continuing successful rollout of vaccines both domestically and abroad.
“The roadmap to safely reopen international travel should be finalized by May 1, 2021, so that a plan is in place to reopen by the summer of 2021 if vaccine distribution and epidemiological trends continue in a positive direction,” the open letter demands.
Airlines continue to support mandatory pre-departure testing for international travelers coming to the U.S. but argue that fully-vaccinated passengers should be exempt from test requirements.
Both the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization don’t support vaccination requirements for international rules but proof of inoculation could unlock onerous and time-consuming testing rules.
“The CDC should immediately update its guidance to state that vaccinated individuals can travel safely. Further, so long as vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals are required to comply with Federal mask mandates, physical distancing and other safety measures, the risk of vaccinated individuals transmitting the virus during travel is exceptionally low,” the letter continues.
In the last two weeks, domestic air travel demand has recovered to new pandemic highs but international travel remains controversial. President Biden is said to remain nervous about easing existing travel bans over fears of new virus variants being imported from abroad and derailing the vaccination program.
The White House has refused to comment on when travel restrictions might be lifted.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.