During an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian shared his thoughts on a government proposal that would require passengers on domestic flights to have a negative COVID test in order to travel.
According to USA Today, Bastian said that including this requirement for passengers would take resources away from sick people, noting it “would divert about 10% of the country’s already scarce testing resources.”
Delta is the only airline that is still keeping middle seats open on its airplanes as a continued safety measure.
Bastian told Poppy Harlow on CNN, “I think [mandating a negative COVID test for every domestic flier] would be a horrible idea.” He added that airline travel numbers are “starting to grow again, which we like to see” and that “travel domestically … the air transportation system is the safest form of transportation.”
Bastian says that it would also be a “logistical nightmare” that “[would] not keep domestic fliers safer.” He noted that it would not only set back the transportation sector, but the hospitality industry, as well.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg didn’t rule out the possibility during an interview with Axios earlier this week. “There’s an active conversation with the CDC right now,” Buttigieg said. “What I can tell you is, it’s going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out.”
Bastian joins fellow airline CEOs in his disapproval, including Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly. USA Today reports that Kelly wrote a letter to President Biden on Tuesday, stating:
On behalf of the management and unions at Southwest Airlines, we respectfully ask your administration to refrain from imposing any federal mandate to require a pre-departure COVID-19 test for air travel within the United States…We believe such a mandate would be counterproductive, costly, and have serious unintended consequences, including for millions of people who have travel needs but may not have access to testing resources and for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on a stable air travel industry.
Kelly stated that it would not be fair to require this kind of testing only on airplanes and not other forms of domestic travel or “other enclosed commercial spaces.”
Delta’s Bastian joins a growing alliance of “travel industry players, including airlines, two major pilot unions and the U.S. Travel Association” that have spoken out against the government mandating this kind of testing. Many of them claim that the risk of spreading COVID-19 during air travel is not high and that this kind of regulation would be “discriminatory and unwarranted.”
In late January, airline officials were asked about the proposal by Wall Street analysts, but they said they didn’t have any further information about it. USA Today reported that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and others “have said they supported the addition of COVID-19 testing on international flights to the U.S. because it was seen as a way to reopen international borders.” However, extending this to domestic flights does not appear to be as understandable.