On Sunday, the Biden administration will eliminate the Covid-19 testing requirement for inbound flight travellers from abroad, putting a stop to one of the pandemic's longest-running travel restrictions.
The rule, which was implemented by the Trump administration in early 2021 and subsequently tightened by the Biden administration, required inbound travellers, including U.S. citizens, to provide documentation of a negative Covid test a day before boarding flights heading for the United States. Travellers entering the United States through land border crossings were not subject to the ban.
On Sunday, at 12:01 a.m. ET, the change will take effect.
Airlines and others in the travel industry have lobbied the administration to repeal the restriction, claiming it harmed demand for foreign travel. The travel industry has taken the brunt of the pandemic's effects.
Last week, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said he visited with officials in Washington, D.C., to address the testing requirement, which he called "nonsensical."
He expressed his dissatisfaction by saying, "We're pretty frustrated."
Covid testing entrance rules had previously been abandoned by other countries, including the United Kingdom.
In a statement, Roger Dow, president of the US Travel Association, stated, "The Biden administration is to be praised for this step, which will welcome back travellers from around the world and hasten the revival of the US travel industry." "For businesses and workers across the country who have battled to recoup losses from this valuable industry, international inbound tourism is critical."
Mike Liptak, vice president of government relations for the Travel Technology Association, said in a statement that travel and tourism are critical to the economy's recovery from the pandemic. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to prioritize the safety and well-being of the flying public and to ensure that air travel rules are informed by science," said Nick Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the top U.S. carriers.
According to a senior Biden administration source, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the decision in 90 days.
"CDC will not hesitate to act if there is a need to reintroduce a pre-departure testing requirement — including due to a new, worrying variation," the official said.
Throughout the pandemic, the tourism industry struggled with both the Biden and Trump administrations over measures intended at preventing the spread of Covid-19, including a stringent ban on most international travellers to the United States, which was eventually repealed in November. According to a White House spokeswoman, most noncitizen visitors to the United States will still be required to produce confirmation of Covid-19 vaccination before flying to the United States.
Separately, in April, a Trump-appointed federal court overturned another contentious law aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19: the Biden administration's federal requirement that passengers wear masks on airlines and other types of public transportation. The verdict has been challenged by the Department of Justice.