Pressure is mounting on the United States to lift all COVID travel restrictions, with airlines stepping up efforts to get the Biden administration to drop pre-departure testing.
Currently, almost all passengers must take a test within a day of their trip. Most unvaccinated foreigners are completely barred from entry.
But with a busy summer season approaching, how long will these strict measures hold?
What does the travel industry think of the testing rules?
On Friday, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom called the testing requirements “nonsense”, adding that they were “depressing” leisure and business travel.
Isom met with US politicians on Thursday to discuss the issue, saying 75% of countries the airline flies to have no testing requirements.
“We’re really frustrated and it’s something that not only hurts travel to the United States, but it just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Airlines for America chief Nick Calio added that the requirement hurts the US economy. The trade association says that although domestic travel is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, international travel is still 14% below normal.
“Quite frankly, the only impact of requiring pre-departure testing is a chilling effect on an already fragile economy here in the United States,” Calio explained.
In May, more than 260 travel companies signed a letter to the White House demanding an “urgent repeal” of the pre-departure testing rule.
“It is time for the Biden administration to lead the country into a new normal for travel and onto a faster path to full economic recovery,” according to the letter from the US Travel Association (USTA).
It follows a major event on April 18, when a federal judge blocked President Biden’s plan to extend mandatory mask-wearing in planes, trains and other public transport. This means that masks are now optional as far as the US transport authority is concerned.
“We are always reviewing our advice and new scientific data that becomes available,” a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) spokesperson told Euronews Travel in response to a question about when the entry rules are. likely to be relaxed.
In the meantime, here are the current rules for entering the United States – and indications that they may change soon.
When will the US drop its pre-departure testing rule?
Currently, all travelers – regardless of vaccination status or nationality – must take a COVID-19 test no more than one day before traveling by air to the United States. This is separate from 24 hours: this means the test can be taken anytime the day before your trip.
Rapid antigen, PCR and a number of other types of tests are accepted. Only children under the age of two are exempt from this obligation.
Upon arrival, fully vaccinated visitors do not have to self-quarantine, but are recommended to take another virus test within three to five days of arrival.
All air passengers are also required to provide their contact details to their airline prior to boarding.
It’s not too onerous a rule – compared to the peak pandemic administration – but the costs involved may mean some European tourists choose test-free destinations instead, such as Thailand, for their long-haul summer break. Not to mention the cost of having a major trip derailed at the last minute.
The CDC is giving little and the White House has said any decision to end pre-departure will be made by its medical and health experts.
Could a legal campaign get rid of the US testing rule?
In early May, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) dubbed pre-departure testing “the biggest hurdle” to resuming travel.
The Society is behind efforts by a group of lawmakers to lift the testing requirement through legal means. California Congressman Lou Correa has asked the White House to exempt fully vaxxed inbound travelers from having to provide proof of a negative test.
With US travel to Europe set to soar 600% this summer, compared to 2021, vacationers in all states will push to relax this rule.
“Travellers are afraid of being stranded abroad and having their vacation plans shattered, preventing the revival of our domestic travel and tourism industries,” Rep. Correa added.
“It is high time that our testing criteria were aligned with those used by other countries.”
When will unvaccinated tourists be allowed to return to the United States?
Generally speaking, the United States is not open to unvaccinated tourists. The EU Digital Covid Certificate (EUDCC) and the UK’s NHS Covid Pass are both acceptable forms of proof that you are double stung, with the second dose given at least 14 days before departure. Recall shots are currently not required in the United States.
Being recently cured (having tested positive for the virus within the last year) is also not enough to enter.
Children under 18 do not need to be vaccinated to visit America, and there are a few other exceptions for non-US citizens.
“If there are any changes, we will notify the public accordingly,” a CDC spokesperson said.
Travel experts aren’t sure if unvaccinated citizens will be welcomed before the summer, but with the world in an increasingly strong position against the virus, 2022 will likely be the year the United States fully reopens.