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Airline Domestic Covid Testing “devastating” to industry, if implemented

Aviation lobby groups and lawmakers rejecting a requirement for airline domestic travel covid testing.

A multisector coalition that includes airlines, union, and airport groups have sent a letter to COVID Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, urging him to scrap a requirement for airline domestic covid testing:

“The costs and consequences of a testing requirement for domestic travel would far outweigh any potential benefits.”

Coalition Letter to COVID Coordinator

Still, the CDC Director from the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine Marty Cetron said the agency was “actively looking” into a COVID testing requirement for domestic flights.

While International Arrivals have followed the negative COVID Test mandate since the end of January, it sounds farfetched for domestic flights.

Lawmakers aren’t happy exploring this

At least, lawmakers in both parties understand that creating this mandate for domestic flights leads to greater furloughs and losses.

This is especially true if federal aid keeps airline employees on the payroll that expires next month.

In a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing two weeks ago, the following remarks were made:

Hearing on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee two weeks ago. Note: To get to the remarks of Sara Nelson please scroll to 41 thru 46 minutes for the main remarks. Question regarding Domestic Testing can be heard from 1:08 thru 1:18 of the clip. Credit: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“This would be devastating to the airline industry, and we cannot do cosmetic things that won’t actually contain, kill the virus and make sure that we are eradicating it,”

Remarks of Sara Nelson, The International President of the Association of Flight Attendants Union, at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing two weeks ago.

The bipartisan Congress displays a stark contrast to what the CDC and the White House have been demonstrating so far.

The Committee Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), has expressed concern that the CDC is considering a mandate on domestic flights.

A capacity increase of at least 50% in daily testing capacity would create an artificial shortage of testing materials.

“I don’t know where that comes from, and I’m not certain of its effectiveness, given that even the most effective test is not particularly accurate,”

“And if it’s necessary for aviation, well, then I guess we’d have to worry about interstate trucking, interstate buses, Amtrak, and people getting their automobiles across state lines.”

Committee Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) concerns and remarks.

Airlines up in Arms – and they are losing big time!

The Airlines C-Suite didn’t take long to comment to the media. Southwest Airlines President Tom Nealon considers this “a goat-rodeo.”

JetBlue Chief Financial Officer Joanna Geraghty said that putting that burden on the airlines was ”far too cumbersome.”

She continued,

“People need to travel. They will figure out a way to get there.”

Airlines are losing about $30 million a day according to the President of the International Association of Flight Attendants Union, Sara Nelson.

Her expressions came in an interview just before the hearing.

Companies like United Airlines Holdings, the Parent Company of United Airlines, have already given furlough notices.

The airline gave notice to 14,000 of its employees. If the third round of payroll support isn’t sanctioned allowing the second round of support to expire, the employees would be out of their jobs.

With American Airlines, the story is similar, with 13,000 of its employees on the line.

Congress Understands the airline situation

While most Congressmembers have to fly to their districts and home states, they understand and see the effects of a possible domestic mandate.

“Devastating effects that have taken place with a lack of passengers and lack of ability to continue to operate in a very high-cost environment.” 

Comments by Representative Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)

As both Congress and the airline groups seek to get the third round of payroll support, time is running out.

The payroll support program ends at the end of March.

Airline domestic covid testing on paper sounds wonderful, but implementation would be a nightmare!

Author’s Opinion

The mandate is one of those things that sounds great in theory. However, it’s a whole other ballgame in practicality.

For example, the implementation of Operation Warp Speed was supposed to have a stockpile of 100 million doses by the end of the year. At the end of the year, we were at only a fraction of that.

As expressed on my Linkedin page, if the United States would concentrate more on the vaccine’s logistics, people would be protected. The same goes for any government, whether foreign or domestic.

As long as the government won’t allow the private sector to concentrate on the heart of the production and logistics, we might as well start thinking about living with this for years to come.

We would think by now that testing isn’t foolproof. What would be the logic behind this? Is the logic to see the industry on its knees?

COVID did that, therefore placing the industry on fragile territory.

People will find another way to travel. If one creates restrictions, people, as a result, find other means to get there; whether it be by car, train, or boat.

What would this administration do then? Would National Guard Troops be placed on every state crossing on land? Or, placing the Coast Guard on the Intracoastal Waterway?

It is now becoming absurd.

When there is a better way to test that is reliable and cost-effective, then the government can think of restrictions.

Not before.

Adding this to the overall aviation situation

If we add the current logistics with airline partnerships in trying to reduce personnel, the Payroll Support Program possibly ending at the end of March, and with Congress not helping, the airline industry needs help!

The current combination of measures can be lethal if continued unchecked!

Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention Expressions

The CDC has officially ruled in favor of the airlines:

“At this time, CDC is not recommending required point of departure testing for domestic travel,” according to a CDC statement sent to media outlets Friday night.

“As part of our close monitoring of the pandemic, in particular the continued spread of variants, we will continue to review public health options for containing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the travel space.”

This doesn’t mean that airlines will rest on their laurels. It means airlines will be staying vigilant, maintaining the sort of pressure they have already been keeping.

What do you think about the idea of airline domestic covid testing? You can contact Alex Martinez Rivera below.

Captain Jetson news reporter and aviation analyst aviation analyst Alex Martinez Rivera
Alex Martinez Rivera

Alex Martinez Rivera is the Senior Aviation Contributor for Captain Jetson. Ask questions or connect with him about aviation, aerospace, business, or government via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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