Airline, travel groups urge Biden administration to move toward lifting restrictions on international travelers

© Shutterstock

A group of air and travel industry stakeholders is calling on the Biden administration to begin implementing risk-based, data-driven public health measures in a move toward lifting restrictions on inbound international travelers.

In their March 22 letter to the White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, the more than two dozen groups asked the administration to work with them to develop new plans by May 1.

“By developing clear metrics, benchmarks, and a timeline for rescinding entry restrictions on international travelers, the COVID-19 response team can: maintain strong risk-based protections against the spread of COVID-19 and importation of new variants; encourage business and leisure travelers to prepare for and comply with requirement for a safe reopening of inbound and outbound international travel by the summer of 2021; and accelerate rehiring and economic recovery in the travel and aviation industries,” the groups wrote.

With new cases of COVID-19 falling, as well as new hospitalizations and new deaths, and with vaccinations rising, the group argued that the risk of contracting COVID-19 while flying was low. The group said it did not want to lift many of the measures put in place to mitigate risk but to change some restrictions on international travelers.

“To be clear, at this time, we do not support removal or easing of core public health protections, such as the universal mask mandate, inbound international testing requirement, physical distancing, or other measures that have made travel safer and reduced transmission of the virus,” the group wrote. “However, the data and science demonstrate that the right public health measures are now in place to effectively mitigate risk and allow for the safe removal of entry restrictions.”

The group advocated maintaining the inbound international traveler testing mandate; exempting vaccinated individuals from the international testing requirements while avoiding vaccine requirements as a prerequisite to travel; and developing COVID-19 health credentials (CHCs).