Call for domestic flight COVID-19 tests is a ‘horrible idea,’ Delta CEO says

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The CEO of Delta Air Lines blasted the Biden administration on Tuesday for considering a proposal to require a negative coronavirus test for all domestic travelers, calling it a “horrible idea” that would fail to keep passengers safe and hamstring an already struggling industry. 

​”It will not keep domestic flyers safer,” CEO Ed Bastian said on CNN Business, asserting that airplanes have high-quality air filters that constantly refresh the air every few minutes to reduce the chance of transmitting the virus. 

“Travel domestically in the air transportation system is the safest form of transportation. I think we all know that. Incidents of spread aboard any of our planes is absolutely minimal. In fact, very, very few documented cases globally, not just domestically,” he said.

Bastian went on to say that an operation to require vaccinations would pull much-needed resources away from testing for sick people. 

“I think it’d be a logistical nightmare and would set the transportation, not just the transportation and travel industry back, but the whole hospitality sector, the hotels, it would set us back at least probably another year in the recovery,” he said.

“I think it’d be a horrible idea for a lot of reasons,” Bastian said. “We’re carrying as a US industry over a million people a day on average and that number is starting to grow again, which we like to see.”

He said the requirement would discourage people from traveling again and have long term consequences.

“If anything it is going to keep people away from what they need to do, which is … starting to get back out … for not just essential travel. But people need to start reclaiming their lives. And taking testing resources away from those truly in need, I think would be a terrible decision,” he said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires negative COVID-19 tests for international travelers coming to the US but has not extended that domestically yet. 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, was asked about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s comments that the government is considering requiring domestic testing as it does with international travel.

“First and foremost, I would really encourage people to not travel, but if we are traveling, this would be yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease the spread,” she said at Monday’s coronavirus briefing but did not go into details.

According to the  International Civil Aviation Organization, about 1.8 billion passengers took flights in 2020, compared to 4.5 billion in 2019, amounting to a $370 billion loss to the airline industry. 

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