On January 28, 2021, in response to media reports indicating the Biden Administration is considering imposing a COVID-19 testing requirement for domestic air passengers, NACA President and CEO George Novak issued the following statement:
NACA strongly supports CDC’s most recent efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in all transportation modes, including aviation, by mandating that passengers and workers wear face coverings. However, we are concerned by recent reports that the CDC is actively considering a requirement for pre-flight COVID testing on domestic flights. Scientific evidence, demonstrated in the November study conducted by the Harvard Aviation Public Health Initiative, suggests that air travel is as safe as — or substantially safer than — the routine activities people undertake during these times, including commuting, eating out and grocery shopping.
We believe implementation of such a requirement would be extremely difficult given the high cost and continuing low availability of COVID-19 testing in the United States. Furthermore, such a proposal would disproportionately impact aviation vis-à-vis rail, bus and public transit, all of which have similar passenger seating environments, because travelers may be unwilling or unable to get testing before flying. In addition, a domestic testing requirement for air travel will inevitably result in potential air travelers electing to drive to their destinations, which is statistically more dangerous than flying and could lead to higher rates of COVID-19 transmission, as road trips typically include indoor food and rest stops.
Finally, imposing such a testing requirement domestically would be devastating to the U.S. airline industry and airline workers by further depressing U.S. air passenger volumes, which reached a six-month low yesterday in terms of TSA traveler screenings. The adverse economic impacts would necessitate financial assistance from the Federal Government well above and beyond the Department of Treasury’s Airline Payroll Support Program, since labor costs are approximately 25% of airline operating costs.
We look forward to continue working collaboratively with CDC, DHS, the FAA, airline unions, and other aviation stakeholders to implement science-based initiatives to further enhance the safety of our passengers and crew.