Joe Biden says the former president left the US with a more dire Covid-19 situation than anticipated

Delta CEO hits out over Biden administration’s suggestion to require Covid tests for domestic travel

Transportaion Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the requirement was up for consideration by CDC officials

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Tuesday 09 February 2021 21:39
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The CEO of Delta Air Lines has criticised the Biden administration's suggestion of requiring aeroplane passengers to provide a negative Covid-19 test on all domestic flights, after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the move was up for consideration.

"It will not keep domestic flyers safer," CEO Ed Bastian told CNN on Tuesday.

He went on to state that "very, very few documented cases globally, not just domestically" showed air-travel related infections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It would set us back another year in the recovery," Mr Bastian predicted.

Travel has been one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, as Americans were encouraged to remain home and avoid all unnecessary travel in an effort to curb the spread of the novel virus. But domestic flights have gradually increased in recent months. 

Delta Air Lines was the only US-based airline currently blocking middle seats to keep passengers distanced from each other on flights. 

Mr Bastian's criticisms came after Mr Buttigieg said the move was up for consideration in the Biden administration. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was engaged in an "active conversation" about the travel requirement in an effort to curb the spread of the novel virus, Mr Buttigieg said when speaking to Axios on HBO. 

"What I can tell you is it's going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out," he said. "But here's the thing: The safer we can make air travel in terms of perception as well as reality, the more people are going to be ready to get back in the air."

Dr Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, was asked during the White House Covid briefing on Monday if this requirement would be put in place.

The screening could be helpful, she said, but did not add whether it was up for serious consideration within the federal agency.

"To the extent that we have available tests to be able to do testing, first and foremost, I would really encourage people to not travel," Dr Walensky said during the briefing. "But if we are travelling, this would be yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease the spread."

The CDC has already instituted a travel requirement for international flights, which went into effect at the end of January. International travellers, US citizens, and US residents entering the country all must test negative up to three days before their flight.

This requirement came at a time when highly transmissible Covid-19 variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil have all caused concern among health officials on how it could impact cases, hospitalisations, and the number of deaths.

The US Travel Association, a national nonprofit for the industry, supported the international travel requirement and said it could help open up travel in the months to come. But the group was not supportive of a domestic travel-testing requirement, calling it "impractical" and claiming it would "divert scarce public health resources away from other priorities".

Airlines for America, another travel industry body, also expressed concern over a domestic-travel requirement to receive a negative Covid-19 test.

"Given the strong scientific evidence that the risk of Covid-19 transmission onboard an aircraft is very low, we believe that a testing requirement for domestic air travel is unwarranted," the group said in a letter addressed to the White House.

"Further, public health and economic data indicate that this policy would disproportionately prevent low-income travellers and rural Americans in small communities from travel."

The CDC has not indicated when it could have a final determination on if a domestic travel requirement would be implemented.

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