Airline CEOs Call on Biden to Lift Mask Mandate, Covid-Test Requirement for Air Travel

The Biden administration should lift its mask mandate and Covid-testing requirements for air travelers, ten CEOs of U.S. passenger and cargo airlines said in a letter released on Wednesday.

The administration currently requires travelers flying into the U.S. from abroad to present a negative Covid test prior to takeoff. Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration extended a mask mandate for all public transportation, including air travel, on March 18. The mask mandate is set to expire on April 18.

Signatories of the letter include American Airlines CEO W. Douglas Parker, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary C. Kelly, and United Airlines head Scott Kirby.

“The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, as demonstrated by the recently released CDC framework indicating that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors,” the airline CEO’s said in the letter.

“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do,” the letter adds.

Regarding the pre-departure Covid test for those flying to the U.S., the CEOs noted that the U.K., the European Union, and Canada have already scrapped such requirements.

The pre-departure test “has outlived its utility and stymies the return of international travel,” the letter states. “The U.S. inconsistency with these practices creates a competitive disadvantage for U.S. travel and tourism by placing an additional cost and burden on travel to the U.S.”

Southwest CEO Kelly said at a Senate hearing in December 2021 that masks likely don’t increase protection from Covid during flights.

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