Press Releases

Congressional Democrats Urge Biden Administration To Require Vaccination Or Negative Test For Airline Travelers As Holidays Approach

U.S. Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today led 36 congressional Democrats urging the Biden Administration to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for airline passengers. Their letter, addressed to President Biden, was sent ahead of the uptick in airline travel expected for the holiday season.

They wrote:

“As the nation approaches holiday season, we ask that you put in place requirements for airline passengers to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test to board a domestic flight. We also ask that safety protocols in place for trains and other popular modes of public transportation continue to be updated to reflect the best available data to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is a necessary and long overdue step toward ensuring all Americans feel safe and confident while traveling and reduce the chances of yet another devastating winter surge.

“As the success of vaccine requirements in the private sector has shown, requiring proof of vaccination for domestic flights has the potential to increase vaccine acceptance among the public. Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that unvaccinated people would be significantly more likely to get fully vaccinated if it was a requirement to fly on an airplane. It is in the best interest of our nation’s public health to adopt these vaccination requirements for U.S. air travel.”

Beyer, Torres, and Feinstein are sponsors of legislation requiring vaccinations for passengers prior to domestic air travel.

A signed copy of the letter is available here, and text follows below.

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Dear President Biden:

As the nation approaches holiday season, we ask that you put in place requirements for airline passengers to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test to board a domestic flight. We also ask that safety protocols in place for trains and other popular modes of public transportation continue to be updated to reflect the best available data to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is a necessary and long overdue step toward ensuring all Americans feel safe and confident while traveling and reduce the chances of yet another devastating winter surge.

We applaud your adoption of vaccine requirements for international air travelers coming to the United States. Implementation of these science-based requirements is critical to reducing COVID-19 transmission risk for passengers, crewmembers, and U.S. destination communities. Applying similar strategies to domestic air travel would ensure Americans can travel safely to see their loved ones during the holidays while also limiting household introduction and spread of COVID-19 from visiting family and friends.

Many Americans remain reluctant to spending extended periods of time in enclosed public spaces due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for domestic flights will help alleviate these concerns for traveling. Further, this type of COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirement has been endorsed by prominent voices in the public health community.

Implementing such a requirement can also be a valuable tool to support the recovery of the tourism and hospitality industries. Witnesses before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion testified that domestic business spending this year is projected to be just 57 percent of their 2019 levels. It will take at least four years for the travel and tourism sectors to be restored to their pre-pandemic levels. In particular, the aviation industry has sustained $35 billion in losses in 2020. Recovery of these industries will only occur when American travelers are confident that they are safe during indoor activities, including when traveling, whether in airports or on the planes themselves.

As the success of vaccine requirements in the private sector has shown, requiring proof of vaccination for domestic flights has the potential to increase vaccine acceptance among the public. Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that unvaccinated people would be significantly more likely to get fully vaccinated if it was a requirement to fly on an airplane. It is in the best interest of our nation’s public health to adopt these vaccination requirements for U.S. air travel.

Thank you for your consistent dedication in promoting science-based public health measures to keep Americans safe and healthy. As you continue to work tirelessly to finally end this pandemic, we ask that you ensure vaccine protocol is in place for domestic air travel so that every opportunity has been taken to get eligible Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,