Industry Raises Intl Testing Questions To CDC, FAA

 - January 18, 2021, 11:48 AM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Aviation industry stakeholders have been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to iron out questions surrounding the agency’s order calling for all air passengers entering the U.S. to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test or recovery of the virus beginning on January 26.

Released last week, that order applied to passengers across the board, whether on a business aviation, charter, or scheduled airline flight. CDC and FAA officials, which last week held an interagency call with stakeholders to clarify the requirements, plan to update the FAQs and indicated plans to provide additional guidance, the National Air Transportation Association said.

The officials clarified that CDC is the lead agency for the enforcement, not Customs and Border Control, and self-testing is permissible with proof of a negative test, as long as it is a viral test. Further, testing is not required for flights to or from Puerto Rico, Guam, or other U.S. territories. And if flights depart and then return within 72 hours, the same test remains valid as long as taken within the 72-hour time frame. However, according to the CDC, if a flight gets delayed beyond the 72-hour window, another test will be necessary.

Questions still remain on how to apply to locations where Covid testing is not easily obtainable. NATA anticipates that more detailed guidance will be issued about this.

Separately, other questions have been raised surrounding the ability to read the results in various languages, particularly for the business aviation or charter communities that might not have on-scene representatives. Further, contract questions come into play when a passenger might show up with a positive test or refuses to take one, particularly when a third-party vendor is involved.

NATA has strongly advised operators to ensure their international travelers have a testing plan for their trip and suggested operators review their contracts and cancelation policies to account for potential contingencies associated with this order, such as a positive test or refusal to test.

While crewmembers are exempt, all passengers age two and up qualify, whether a foreign national or U.S. citizen. This applies even to those who have had the vaccine. However, if a person has recovered from Covid, CDC will accept evidence of a positive test and a letter from a physician verifying the recovery.

Private and general aviation operators must maintain the attestations for two years, according to the CDC.