Thursday,  October 21, 2021  11:05 pm

U.S. pre-departure testing requirement: IATA applauds, ASTA skeptical

U.S. pre-departure testing requirement: IATA applauds, ASTA skeptical

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is welcoming the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement that, effective January 26, all travellers to the United States will be required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within three days before flying.

“Systematic pre-departure testing is key to giving governments confidence to reopen markets without quarantine. Testing will ensure that at current infection levels, aviation will not become a meaningful vector of new transmissions in the US. Furthermore, IATA traveler surveys show that passengers strongly support and are willing to undergo testing,” said Douglas Lavin, IATA’s Vice President Member and External Relations, North America.

IATA is also encouraged by the flexibility shown by the CDC in accepting antigen and PCR tests, and by allowing passengers who have already had COVID-19 to demonstrate that they are immune.

“As the efficacy of testing is confirmed, we need to move quickly to next steps—lifting travel restrictions which prevent travel from Europe and other key markets and removing quarantine requirements imposed by state and local governments in the U.S.,” said Lavin.

IATA, meanwhile, is developing the IATA Travel Pass, a mobile app to manage information flows around requirements for COVID-19 testing and/or vaccine/immunity information. 

READ MORE: All air travellers arriving in U.S. must provide negative COVID-19 test, says CDC

The pass will enable travellers to receive and securely store encrypted data on their own mobile devices, including verified test or vaccination results, and to share this information with airlines and authorities. 

IATA is urging the U.S. government to make provision to accept test and immunity documents shared electronically via the pass. 

ASTA more circumspect ...

Compared to the enthusiasm of IATA, the reaction of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is much more mixed.

ASTA says it supports an accurate and rapid screening regime for air travellers, instead of mandatory quarantines and travel bans.

The Association warns, however, that just because of the time between test and flight, the incubation period and false positives, the CDC's new requirement will not be enough to stop the spread of the virus. 

In this regard, ASTA is focusing more on the vaccine, on testing in the U.S., and on mandatory masks in all public places.

Dreaded logistical crisis

More importantly, ASTA is concerned that the new requirement will create a logistical crisis - a concern that will easily resonate in Canada.

“When travellers are stranded because they are not able to get a test in time for departure, it will trigger a domino effect throughout the chain… Doubt as to the availability of a test and the possibility being stranded will create uncertainty that will prompt many travellers to postpone plans," said ASTA President Zane Kerby. 

At the very least, he said the CDC should publish a list of exempt destinations so that travel advisors and consumers can make informed decisions.

"Requiring virus tests when the global infrastructure to perform these tests does not exist will place additional strain on the travel economy without addressing the problem," Kerby said.

Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!