U.S. airline executives had a unified message for the White House during a virtual summit on Friday: no domestic testing.
U.S. Airline Executives Oppose Domestic Testing At White House Meeting
Airline executives from across the industry joined a virtual call with White House coronavirus-response coordinator Jeff Zients. All expressed a common message: requiring testing for domestic flights would destroy an industry already severely weakened by the pandemic. The additional cost and inconvenience of testing, they argued, would deter people from domestic travel.
Furthermore, the airlines argued there is not a sufficient infrastructure in place to even accommodate the scale of testing needed should pre-flight testing become mandatory. Plus, requiring pre-flight testing would just push more people to drive, not minimizing risk but transferring it and creating even greater risk on roads and highways.
White House Press Secretary refused to rule out domestic testing, but noted during her daily press briefing:
“Reports that there is an intention to put in place new requirements such as testing are not accurate.”
Two people were noticeably missing from the meeting. First, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who sparked fear amongst the U.S. airline industry when he hinted at a domestic testing requirement. Second, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who seems to have better things to do than speak to the White House no matter what party is in power.
A spokesperson for Airlines for America, the trade group which lobbies on behalf of U.S. airlines, stated:
“We had a very positive, constructive conversation focused 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.”
The union repressing Southwest Airlines pilots warns that testing “would decimate domestic air travel demand, put aviation jobs at risk, and create serious unintended consequences.” All true, though I think we could adjust if this really was helpful. However, I do concur with the airlines that this would simply transfer travel from air to car. The result may be less COVID-19 spread, but more traffic deaths.