Alexandria, VA – In response to the recent court decision striking down the federal government’s transportation mask mandate, ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby issues the following statement:
“The current back and forth on the mask mandate pertaining to various forms of transportation misses the mark and overshadows very real policies deterring international travel. Requiring Americans to test negative prior to returning home from abroad is the public policy that needs immediate reversal. Millions of Americans travel by air every day. Those traveling internationally risk quarantining abroad and navigating multiple foreign countries’ bureaucratic and ever-changing pandemic rules. As a result, Americans are delaying or simply cancelling international trips, ensuring once again that travel will be the last industry to recover from the pandemic.
“When traveling to countries with high vaccination rates, the risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 is extremely low. Yet, the United States government is holding its own citizens hostage abroad with this overly cautious, unscientific, and contradictory rule. The White House has stated, “…the Administration has put vaccines at the center of its COVID-19 response because vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent hospitalization and death.” Why then is there no consideration given to the vaccinated who have complied with the Administration’s top public policy priority?
“Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, governments across the world took steps to screen airline passengers and, later, to optimize those screening procedures. As a result, we now have programs such as TSA PreCheck® and Global Entry that play a significant role in expediting the screening process while keeping travelers safe. Now is the time to adopt a similar approach, one that strikes a better balance between public health concerns and the right of free people to travel without undue restriction. ASTA believes a policy exempting fully vaccinated travelers from the inbound testing requirement is the one that best reflects that approach.
“To be clear, we support lifting the inbound testing requirement for all travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, and that remains ASTA’s ultimate policy objective. However, given the bipartisan support in Congress that already exists for it, exempting vaccinated travelers from the requirement represents a logical, and achievable, first step.
“The current policy also creates the false impression that travel outside of the U.S. invariably poses a greater COVID risk than travel within the U.S. How else would the typical traveler understand why a flight from London to New York requires testing while a flight from New York to Los Angeles does not? To the contrary, a number of countries have vaccination rates higher than the U.S. This fact alone makes it evident that the current testing regime is not defensible on any apparent rational or scientific basis. A multitude of these forward-thinking foreign governments have already removed their inbound testing requirement, and the U.S. should do the same.
“Exempting the more than 218 million Americans who are fully vaccinated from the order would reflect the scientific consensus that widespread vaccination is the single most essential element of the fight against COVID-19, while allowing the travel industry’s recovery to begin in earnest.”