Iata boss urges White House to drop Covid test rules

The boss of airline association Iata has written to US authorities in the White House asking for the end of pre-departure Covid testing to help aviation recover from pandemic downturn.

Willie Walsh, Iata director general, also asks in his letter that the Biden administration does not to renew its mask mandate for transportation when it lapses on March 18.

“It makes no sense to continue to require masks on airplanes when they are no longer being required in shopping malls, theatres or offices,” he said in his letter to Jeffrey Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

“Aircraft are equipped with highly sophisticated hospital-quality filtration systems and have much higher air flow and air exchange rates than most other indoor environments where mask mandates already have been removed.”

Walsh outlined the situation facing the aviation sector, which now has nearly 50% less passenger traffic than it did before Covid-19, and suffered total losses in 2020-21 of $189.5 billion.

More: Iata reports strong rebound in global air travel post-Omicron

He added: “The past few weeks have seen a dramatic shift by many governments around the world…to ease or remove Covid-19 travel restrictions and requirements as the disease enters its endemic phase.

“We strongly support the growing list of leading countries that have decided to remove their pre-departure testing requirement.

“President Biden is rightfully proud of the high level of full vaccination achieved in the US and the various therapeutics now available to keep those who become infected out of hospitals.

“Any minimal remaining public health benefits from testing are far outweighed by the detrimental impact this policy continues to have on people’s travel freedom and livelihoods.”

He pointed out that countries which removed travel restrictions that are “no longer fit for purpose” have already seen a “significant upswing” in forward bookings.

“We expect a robust recovery when the US and other leading countries join the European Commission, the UK and countries across the globe that have concluded that travel restrictions are no longer necessary from a public health perspective,” he wrote.

Walsh also tweeted about the US pre-departure testing rules, describing them as “unnecessary and unhelpful” – and pointing out that aviation contributes $1 trillion to US GDP and supports 7.8 million jobs.

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