US airlines, travel industry push White House to end pre-travel testing

Gregory Wallace and Pete Muntean, CNNUpdated 1st June 2022
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 19: Airline passengers walk through San Francisco International Airport on April 19, 2022 in San Francisco, California. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will not enforce a federal Covid-19 mask mandate on airplanes or public transportation after a federal judge in Florida struck down the mandate that applied to airports, airplanes and public transportation, ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had overstepped its authority. The CDC still recommends wearing masks on public transit. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(CNN) — White House officials met Tuesday with travel industry officials, who pressed the Biden administration to end its requirements that vaccinated international travelers take a coronavirus test before flying to the United States.
Airlines for America, representing major US air carriers, and the US Travel Association, representing the broad travel and tourism industry, said they argued the requirement does not match the current threat from Covid-19.
They also say the requirement is harming the US economy.
"Quite frankly, the only impact the pre-departure testing requirement is having is a chilling effect on an already fragile economy here in the U.S.," Airlines for America chief Nick Calio said in a statement after the meeting.
Roger Dow of the US Travel Association said in a separate statement that while restrictions on many other businesses have been lifted, "the travel industry remains disproportionately harmed by this requirement."
"Other countries with whom we directly compete for global travelers have removed their pre-departure testing requirements and reopened their tourism economies, putting the U.S. at a serious competitive disadvantage for export dollars," Dow said.
Airlines for America said its members -- including American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines -- believe lifting the requirements would lead more foreigners to visit the US.
The trade association says that in mid-May, domestic travel came within 7 percentage points of pre-pandemic levels, but international travel lagged at 14% below normal.
The industry has criticized the policy as out of date for months.
Some medical experts have also questioned the policy's utility.
Testing international arrivals doesn't make much sense to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
"I've been bemused about that for a long time because we've got plenty of Covid here! It's not as though we're trying to keep Covid out," Schaffner told CNN Travel in March. "It's here already."
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.