Testing the Limits

As the staggering U.S. Covid-19 case counts of January declined sharply in February and vaccine distribution, however scattershot, sped up, it’s not unreasonable for the business travel industry to at least consider the possibility that the darkest days of the pandemic just may be in the past. But even as certain states ease some social-distancing restrictions and other safety measures, the thus-far unrealized prospect (at press time, anyway) of additional U.S. federal directives on permissible air travel has frustrated suppliers and industry organizations.

Specifically, carriers and associations have objected to the possibility that the new administration of President Joe Biden could require passengers to test negative for Covid-19 before flying domestically. The concern seems to stem from remarks to reporters from Dr. Marty Cetron, director of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. According to Reuters, Cetron told reporters officials were "actively looking" at the possibility of a requirement for such testing, and officials were having "conversations that are ongoing and looking at what the types and locations of testing might be."

Carriers responded quickly. Two days after Cetron’s Jan. 26 remarks, American Airlines chairman and CEO Doug Parker, JetBlue president and COO Joanna Geraghty and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly during their respective fourth-quarter earnings calls pushed back against the possibility of domestic testing requirements, calling them cumbersome, difficult to implement and unfairly specific to air travel.

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