IF AN ORGANIZED and coordinated effort is not made soon to ensure the safety of air travel through better COVID-19 testing the U.S. could lose $155 billion as international travel to the country collapses, according to the Global Business Travel Association. GBTA joined 18 other travel and aviation associations in writing a letter to federal agencies calling for action.
In the letter, addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar II, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, GBTA lays out three actions that should be taken to restore travelers’ trust in international air travel. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Air Traffic Control Association were other signatories on the letter.
The actions specified in the letter are:
Establish testing protocols: An increasing number of governments are implementing pre-travel testing requirements or post-arrival testing regimes. The letter urges the U.S. to collaborate to create a similar system.
Begin a limited testing pilot program: A globally accepted framework for testing protocols for international travel must be established, according to GBTA. The U.S. should partner with Europe, Canada and Pacific nations to form a basis for evaluating the efficacy of such a program while collaborating with the aviation and travel industry to chart a path forward.
Design and implement dependable, adaptable testing pilots: Testing pilots should address key considerations, including the availability and reliability of rapid diagnostic tests that can be conducted within a reasonable time window prior to departure. Engagement with international partners would ensure U.S. tests are accepted, the letter said. The pilots would have to be designed to protect travelers’ personal and medical information. GBTA offered to work with government agencies to ensure speedy results, validation and risk tolerance thresholds.
“The economic toll this pandemic has already taken on the U.S. economy is staggering,” said Dave Hilfman, GBTA’s interim executive director. “GBTA and our industry partners stand ready to work with the U.S. government on the implementation of testing pilot protocols so that we can restore the operation and economic vitality of the air transportation system.”
GBTA’s prediction of the economic impact of losing international travelers for the rest of 2020 mirrors the $155 billion loss forecast by the World Travel & Tourism Council last week. It also comes on the heels of the U.S. Travel Association’s endorsement of U.S. airlines recent request that the government implement a testing program for international trips.