Airlines and other tourism-related businesses are pressuring the White House to come up with a proposal in the next five weeks to increase international travel and lift restrictions put in place early in the pandemic.
In a letter to the White House on Monday, more than two dozen organizations made their submission.
They want to exclude citizens who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 from the testing conditions before joining the US. They also want the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to state that people who have been vaccinated are safe to fly with.
These and other measures, according to the groups, would hasten the recovery of the travel and airline industries, which were ravaged by the pandemic’s drop in travel.
Air travel in the United States is now increasing. In the last 11 days, more than 1 million passengers have passed through U.S. airport checkpoints, with Sunday’s number exceeding 1.5 million for the first time in more than a year. However, passenger traffic is still below that of 2019.
Airlines for America, the nation’s largest airline trade group, the United States Travel Association, and the United States Chamber of Commerce are among the groups calling for foreign restrictions to be eased. They set a May 1 deadline for the government to “partner with us” on a proposal to lift year-old travel restrictions.
The organizations cited a drop in COVID-19-related new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States. According to the CDC, almost 45 million Americans, or more than 13% of the population, have been completely vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a letter to White House virus-response coordinator Jeffrey Zients, they wrote, “The time to prepare for and chart a specified roadmap to reopen international travel is now.”
The White House made no comment, but pointed to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s Monday remarks. Walensky said the health agency is working on new guidelines for vaccinated citizens, but he expressed concern about recent rises in new coronavirus cases in several European countries.
“If we look at our European mates, we simply do not want to be at this rapid spike in cases again, and it is quite possible,” she said. “We are on the verge of vaccinating a lot more people…. It is not the right time to fly right now.”
The airline industry is hoping for the removal of large travel restrictions between the United States and Europe, China, and other regions levied by former President Donald Trump last spring to combat the virus’s spread. The majority of non-U.S. people who have visited Europe are refused admission to the country.
Airlines have been urging the Biden administration to take the lead in establishing guidelines for so-called vaccine passports, which would enable people who have been vaccinated and passed a COVID-19 examination to fly freely. The European Union offered a digital health credential last week, but the Trump administration has refused, arguing that it is up to the private sector to decide.
In the last year, the federal government has funded $65 billion in low-interest loans to help airlines meet the majority of their payroll costs in return for keeping employees working. President Joe Biden recently signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which included $15 billion for airlines.