Airlines push White House to reject testing for US flights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of several major United States (US) airlines met online on Friday with White House officials to press their case against requiring coronavirus tests for passengers on domestic flights, saying it would undermine the already fragile industry.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki downplayed speculation that the Biden administration could soon impose a requirement that passengers on domestic flights first pass a COVID-19 test.

But she stopped short of taking the idea off the table. “Reports that there is an intention to put in place new requirements such as testing are not accurate,” Psaki said. She described the meeting with CEOs as “brief”.

The chief executive officers of American, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue all took part in the meeting, according to industry officials.

The meeting was arranged after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky said that a testing requirement before domestic flights was under consideration.

“We had a very positive, constructive conversation focussed on our shared commitment to science-based policies as we work together to end the pandemic, restore air travel and lead our nation toward recovery,” Head of the Trade Group Airlines for America Nick Calio said in a statement.

A traveller walks through Terminal B of LaGuardia Airport in New York. PHOTO: AP