Travel industry, airlines urge end to COVID testing to enter U.S.

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, May 5 (Reuters) - Major U.S. airlines, business and travel groups and other companies urged the White House on Thursday to abandon COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the United States.

"Given the slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors, and in light of medical advancements and the improved public health metrics in the U.S., we encourage you to immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers," said the letter signed by American Airlines (AAL), Carnival Corp (CCL), Marriott International (MAR), Walt Disney Co's (DIS) Disney Parks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Travel Association and others.

Airline executives say many Americans are not traveling internationally because of concerns they will test positive and be stranded abroad.

The letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said "the economic costs associated with maintaining the measure are significant," saying international travel spending is down 78% compared with 2019 levels.

The letter noted many foreign governments "with similar infection, vaccination and hospitalization rates-including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada-have eliminated pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated travelers."

The letter noted that the Biden administration does not require negative tests for entry at land-border ports of entry with Canada and Mexico but only for air travelers.

The White House did not immediately comment.

On April 18, a federal judge declared the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful and the Biden administration quickly stopped enforcing the rules on airplanes and in transit hubs like airports.

In December, the Biden administration imposed tougher new rules requiring international air travelers arriving in the United States to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.

Under prior rules, vaccinated international air travelers could present a negative test result obtained within three days of their day of departure. (Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Marguerita Choy)

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