Why COVID-19 Testing Is The Key To Reopening EU-US Travel

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More and more calls are being made for a unified approach to COVID-19 testing across the EU and the US. A coordinated pre-travel test-method would lead to enhanced confidence in transatlantic routes. Additionally, it would be key for travel to resume without quarantine requirements and entry restrictions, industry voices are saying. On Thursday, Austrian Airlines was the latest in a long line of carriers to demand that those who are healthy be allowed to travel.

why uniform testing is key to transatlantic travel
Airlines are increasingly calling for an EU-US unified approach to COVID-testing, such as this facility set up at Paris CDG. Photo: Getty Images

Restrictions on all non-essential travel remain in place between the EU and the US since March. However, airlines have begun restoring transatlantic routes. However, surges in coronavirus cases on both continents threaten to once more topple precarious flight schedules. The pandemic has yet to show any signs of abating in the US. Additionally, localized clusters continue to pop-up in Europe.

Testing to replace entry bans

That travel between the US and the EU could remain largely prohibited for the unforeseeable future is difficult to imagine. So, given the uncertain unfolding of the pandemic, what could be done?

On Thursday, Austrian Airlines joined the increasing amount of carriers calling for a comprehensive and unified approach to COVID-19 testing to replace general landing and entry bans.

“The freedom to travel is an important cornerstone of our modern-day society which should not be curtailed in the long term. Whoever is healthy and not infected should also be allowed to travel”, Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in a statement seen by Simple Flying.

He added that no other means of transportation offers as good an opportunity for health checks as does aviation. Furthermore, he stated that this should be leveraged for a return to a sense of normalcy, without compromising health protection.

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Austrian pilot with US flags
Austrian Airlines’ CEO is the latest to voice requests for a coordinated EU-US approach. Photo: Austrian Airlines

Joint letter to US and EU decision-makers

Von Hoensbroech joins his colleagues at United Airlines, American Airlines, Lufthansa, and the IAG (owner of British Airways) Group calling for EU-US joint political action. A couple of weeks ago, the operators mentioned above wrote a joint letter to US Vice President Mike Pence and Ylva Johansson, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

In the letter, they said that a coordinated testing program for transatlantic flights is essential to enhancing safety and building confidence for those routes.

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“In addition to all the significant and unprecedented actions that governments and airlines are taking to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a coordinated COVID-19 testing programme could be key to providing confidence to permit services to resume without quarantine requirements or other entry restrictions,” the letter, seen by the Financial Times, read.

Southwest Airlines, April Load Factor, Industry Recovery
Couples separated by the pandemic are demanding to be reunited. Photo: Southwest Airlines

#LoveIsEssential

Joining the airlines’ push for COVID-test travel permits are couples who have been separated for five months by the outbreak and ensuing restrictions. Under #LoveIsNotTourism and #LoveIsEssential, they are lobbying for the EU to ease travel bans so that they can be reunited.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany has demanded a thus far non-existent common EU approach for unmarried couples’ reunification. However, Schengen member states of Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands have made exemptions to travel rules, allowing the “other half” of the couple to enter with a self-paid test (with a negative result) and 14-day quarantine observations.

Do you feel it is time for the EU-US travel ban to be lifted? And is coordinated testing the way to move forward? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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