US Airlines Petition For Government To Rescind Travel Bans

The Airlines for America (A4A) has sent a letter to the Trump administration urging the government to rescind its current travel ban in place and instead to back a testing program for international arrivals. In recent months, there was some chatter about the government removing the existing travel bans, but that has yet to materialize.

American and Delta Aircraft
The A4A is asking for travel bans to be removed. Photo: Getty Images

A4A backs removing travel bans

In a letter seen by Reuters, the A4A has sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging the government to rescind current entry restrictions on travelers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and Brazil. Instead of leaving the US open to tourism and business with no health measures in place before departure, the airline lobby called for a testing program to be initiated.

The A4A sent this letter after several public health experts and agencies, including the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), proposed a testing program for US-bound travelers.

COVID testing
US airlines have supported testing in lieu of quarantines and travel bans for months to little avail. Photo: Getty Images

Unfortunately, Reuters has it that a senior administration official expanding testing for inbound travelers has faced “significant opposition at top levels of the administration, including in Pence’s office.” A final decision has not yet been made, though there was previously some consideration for ending the travel bans.

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The travel bans

Currently, most foreign nationals who have spent any time in the last 14 days before entry into the US in Brazil, the United Kingdom and Ireland, the European Union, Iran, and Mainland China are not allowed to enter the United States. The ban does not apply to returning US citizens.

Brazil is one country that has been mostly open for tourism. Before, travelers to Brazil did not need to have any proof of testing. Now, the country requires inbound travelers to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within three days of departure.

Passengers queue at Paris CGD
When President Trump initially announced the travel ban from Europe, passengers made a rush for the airport to get back to the US in time. Photo: Getty Images

The EU and China have very significant travel restrictions in effect that bar all but the most essential of travel. Even then, some passengers still have to comply with quarantine measures or else testing before arrival.

There is precedent for mandated testing

After the United Kingdom announced that there was a mutated strain of the coronavirus, the US instituted a requirement for UK-arrivals to present a negative test taken within three days of arrival.

UK Quarantine Heathrow
The UK has a history of mandating quarantines for inbound travelers. Photo: Getty Images

Many other countries, and even some states in the US, also mandate testing before arrival to reduce the virus’s spread. However, for blanket international travel, the United States has not had a testing mandate for foreign arrivals.

Airlines have been lobbying for opening up travel

US and foreign airlines have been advocating for testing mandates in place of travel bans or quarantines. The transatlantic corridor between the US and Europe is one of the most important for many airlines. With transatlantic travel closed for nearly a year, airlines have been unable to make a lot of money in this lucrative market.

US Airlines Petition For Government To Rescind Travel Bans
While US airlines have started flying more widebodies on domestic and short-haul international routes, they are itching to fly the lucrative long-haul transatlantic routes again. Photo: Getty Images

With the vaccine starting to be distributed in the United States and Europe, there is some hope for the lifting of travel restrictions. There is no concrete plan, as of yet, as to whether proof of vaccination will be necessary for entry or whether that will be enough to reopen travel.

Recently, US airlines received a second round of funding for payroll support that will run through March. After that, without any guarantee for additional funding, airlines are on their own to raise revenue and keep people employed.

The A4A is hoping to get airlines in a position to be able to sell tickets for transatlantic travel this summer. This is one of the most profitable times of the year for airlines, and carriers are hoping to be able to run a robust transatlantic schedule that will be the start of the next chapter of the recovery– the one that moves airlines closer to profitability.

US Airline CEOS
CEOs of Major US airlines spent the last year pushing for government support. Photo: Getty Images

As of now, it is unclear whether the Trump administration will remove the travel bans before the Biden administration takes over from January 20th. If it does not happen before then, expect the A4A to continue to lobby the government for the removal of travel barriers and a testing program to reopen borders.

Do you back the removal of these travel bans in favor of a testing program? Let us know in the comments!