There Are "No Plans" to Lift This Flight Restriction, White House Says

The administration is under pressure but not budging for now.

The pandemic's effects on the airline industry have been wide-ranging, from limitations on in-flight alcohol service necessitated by a spike in mid-air harassment to mass flight cancellations and delays triggered by flight crew staffing shortages after furloughs and buyouts. And although the number of virus cases have plunged substantially in recent weeks, the pandemic continues to be a palpable force upon passengers' air travel experience. Read on to learn which COVID-era adaptation the White House says is here to stay indefinitely.

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The White House says the pre-departure COVID testing requirements are here to stay.

Top view of female hand dropping a solution of covid19 home self test on a testing stick.

In a press conference on April 5, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients explained that the Biden administration has "no plans" to do away with the pre-departure COVID-testing requirements for travelers heading into the U.S. from abroad—nor even to loosen the rules for such testing. The aviation industry site Paddle Your Own Kanoo first noticed the notable remarks.

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Other countries have already loosened or removed similar flight restrictions.

A flight attendant walking down the aisle of a plane checking on passengers

The Biden administration is under pressure to modify the rules, especially given that other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia have announced plans to do so. In March, major airlines asked the administration to drop the mask requirement, which is currently set to expire on April 18.

"With the Ba.2 COVID-19 variant on the upswing in Europe and in the U.S., I understand why there may be hesitancy to drop the testing requirement now," travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt told the travel platform The Points Guy. "However once again, the U.S. is lagging behind some of our European friends in how they approach COVID-19 and travel."

He added that while many European countries have dropped similar mandates for international visitors including for Americans, the U.S.'s failure to do so "not only risks reducing the appeal of the U.S. to international visitors but could reduce Americans' interest in traveling abroad as well."

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The CDC rules currently require a negative COVID test prior to boarding a flight to the U.S., regardless of vaccination status.

Woman getting covid test

The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rules are clear and comprehensive. "You will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than one day before you travel by air into the United States," the rules state. "You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight."

The exception is for people who can prove they recently recovered from the disease and who are traveling with supporting documentation. "You may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight's departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel)," the rules state.

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An upcoming change in White House coronavirus response team leadership might lead to travel policy changes soon.

CHICAGO - APRIL 05, 2016: inside of O'Hare International Airport. O'Hare is currently a major hub for American Airlines and United Airlines, as well as a hub for regional carrier Air Choice One.

The timing of Zients's remarks on Tuesday could be notable, though. He is imminently leaving his role as White House coronavirus response coordinator. And when leadership changes, there might also be changes to the administration's approach to dealing with the pandemic's effects on the travel industry and beyond.

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Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more
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