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U.S. Planning To Mandate Covid Testing For Domestic Flights

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In an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19 across the country, the United States is considering making a negative test result a mandatory requirement for traveling on a domestic flight.

Covid-19 continues to spread across the US at a rate of more than 100,000 cases per day, and so this is one of many potential new avenues being explored by the Biden administration as the government looks for further ways to stop the spread. Here’s what we know about the idea so far, and a reminder of other flight-based restrictions that US travelers are facing.

plane window view

Negative Test Result for Domestic Travel – Information for Travelers

The idea of testing passengers for Covid-19 prior to catching a domestic flight was made public on Sunday night, following an interview with Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg that was aired on the TV station HBO.

Former South Bend Mayor Buttigieg revealed that there was an active conversation with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the need to test passengers for domestic flights. Buttigieg also made it clear that any potential decision on the matter would be guided “by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out.”

Following the airing of the interview, the director of the CDC Rochelle Walensky was asked about the idea at a White House briefing on Monday. Walensky said that by carrying out tests at the airport, it could reduce the spread of the disease by those who are carrying the virus but are unaware of the fact due to a lack of symptoms. Their Covid-positive status would be picked up by the tests, meaning they would be unable to board a plane and spread the virus around the country.

Walensky pointed out the fact that there is a lot of gathering that happens at airports – even with the advice offered to travelers to stay at home – and so such a decision being implemented would be a “another mitigation measure to try and decrease risk.” At present, flights from overseas heading to the US require passengers to present a negative test result prior to boarding, so the domestic testing policy could end up reflecting the international policy.

U.S. Considering Expanding Testing Requirements To Domestic Travel

Concerns About Mandatory Domestic Testing

Whilst it may help to detect cases of Covid-19 and prevent further spreading, the news that the government is planning to implement such a rule has been met with concern. The US Travel Association called the idea impractical, and expressed fears that it could divert public health resources away form areas where they may be better served.

Where Travelers Can Get a Covid Test In Mexico

Airlines for America, a trade association that represent US airlines, also feels the testing requirement is unwarranted. The group pointed to scientific research that shows in-flight transmission risks are extremely low as the basis for their argument.

Current Covid Related Flight Rules For US Travelers

There are currently several different rules that travelers on flights in the US have to follow in the wake of the pandemic. Every US airline requires both passengers and crew to wear masks, from checking-in right through to the duration of the flight itself. Several airlines have had middle seats empty to foster social distancing, such as Delta, whilst others, such as Frontier, require passengers to have their temperature checked prior to boarding.

Delta Extends ‘No Middle Seat’ Policy Through End of April

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


Wednesday 10th of February 2021

this will prevent nothing. Besides...I thought HEPA air filters removed nearly all the risk. It's LATENT, it's never going away and just activates under the right conditions. There is nothing to stop. Medical tyranny


Tuesday 9th of February 2021

And how is this gonna work for returning Americans from overseas, as there’s not enough time to get tested during brief layovers? E g LHR-JFK-SYR, same day transit? Would DL at JFK accept the result of the U.K. COVID test for the boarding to SYR?


Tuesday 9th of February 2021

Does any other country currently do this?


Tuesday 9th of February 2021

Just more money you have to spend to travel, so if you don't come up positive at the airport will they refund your money you spend on your ticket. I can see alot of people missing flights. I feel sorry for people who have to fly for business. Does this also apply to those who have been vaccinated and Congress.


Tuesday 9th of February 2021

And if you are a road warrior? Covid test every or every other week? This is insanity