Delta CEO slams proposed negative COVID-19 test requirement for domestic flights as a ‘horrible idea’

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A couple walking to their flight at the Newark International Airport on November 2020. Mike Segar/Reuters
  • US officials are considering requiring a negative COVID-19 test result for domestic flights.
  • The TSA requires domestic travellers to mask up.
  • International travellers headed to the US are already required to show a negative COVID-19 test.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

US officials are considering requiring a negative COVID-19 test result from travellers flying domestically, transportation secretaryPete Buttigieg said in an interview on “Axios on HBO” on Sunday.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is currently having an “active conversation” about the potential requirement,Buttigieg said.

“What I can tell you is that 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,” Buttigieg said. “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 into the air.”


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When asked about Buttigieg’s comment at a White House press briefing on Monday, Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said additional screening in gathering places like airports could help detect asymptomatic spreaders.

“There’s more gathering that happens in airports, so to the extent that we have available tests, to be able to do testing … would be yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease the spread,” Walensky said.

The US Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for additional comment.

Not everyone is receptive to the idea. Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines’ CEO, told CNN on Tuesday that the possibility of such a mandate is a “horrible idea” that could take “10% of testing resources” away from sick people.

“Travel domestically in the air transportation system is the safest form of transportation,” Bastian told CNN. “Incidents of spread aboard any of our planes is absolutely minimal.”

Bastian also says the potential testing protocol will not keep domestic travellers safer but would be a “logistical nightmare” that could set transportation, travel, and hospitality industries back “at least another year in the recovery.”

The US already requires a negative COVID-19 test result from all international travellers, a mandate that was officially implemented on January 26. In response, major hotel chains like Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton have started offering on-site virus tests at several international locations.

“Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19,” the CDC said in an email statement sent to Insider on January 12. “This [negative test result from international travellers] strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.”

In terms of coronavirus-related mandates for domestic travellers, the Transportation Security Administration is now requiring travellers to wear face masks at TSA checkpoints and during travel. Those who do not comply could be fined between $US250 to $US1,500.

This TSA mandate came after Biden signed an executive order on January 22 requiring travellers to wear masks on domestic travel transports, whether it be aeroplanes, subways, or taxis.