On March 10, the Biden administration announced the extension of the federal mask mandate on airlines and transportation services until April 18, 2022. With COVID cases plummeting rapidly across North America, and many locales dropping or modifying their own masking protocols, US Travel Association (USTA) President and CEO Roger Dow sees an opportunity to reinvigorate worldwide travel and move toward a phase-out of the current regulations that have been in place throughout most of the pandemic.
“The Biden administration urgently needs to send a clear message to the American public and the world that it is safe to travel again, particularly for vaccinated individuals, despite this 30-day extension of the federal mask mandate. We continue to urge the federal government to phase out the mask requirement and put forward a clear plan for travelers within this 30-day period. The Biden administration can help to normalize travel conditions in their April 18 framework by repealing both the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated international inbound air travelers and the federal mask mandate.”
On February 25, when new guidance was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that relaxes many COVID-era policies—including indoor mask wearing—USTA, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Airlines for America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce appealed in a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients to replace pandemic-era travel advisories, requirements, and restrictions with endemic-focused policies that enable travel to resume fully and safely and the American economy to accelerate its recovery.
The recommendations to restore travel included:
- Removing the pre-departure testing requirement for all fully vaccinated inbound international arrivals.
- Repealing the federal mask mandate for public transportation networks or provide a clear roadmap to remove the mask mandate within 90 days.
- Ending “Avoid Travel” advisories and the use of travel bans.
- Working with other countries to normalize travel conditions and entry requirements.
- Developing by June 1, benchmarks and timelines for a pathway to the new normal that repeals pandemic-focused travel restrictions.
New cases of COVID have decreased to a seven-day average of 35,000, down from more than 800,000. United Airlines, which had the strictest vaccine mandate policy for its employees of all air transportation, recently relaxed its guidance and allowed its non-vaccinated employees to return to work—which was fewer than 4 percent of its workforce.
Visit ustravel.org for more information.