WASHINGTON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - A top aviation union leader
warned on Thursday that mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements
for travelers boarding U.S. domestic flights could devastate the
airline industry and potentially lead to bankruptcies among
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight
Attendants-CWA representing workers at 17 airlines, asked at a
U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing why airlines and
not other transit modes were being singled out.
"Isolating the airline industry and not doing the same thing
for mass transit or doing this at grocery stores or restaurants
doesn't make any sense," she told the transportation and
U.S. government-required testing before domestic flights
could lead to "airline bankruptcies. That is how devastating it
could be," she said.
Representative Peter DeFazio, the Democrat who chairs the
committee, said such testing would require at least a 50%
increase in current daily COVID-19 testing.
"I question whether this would be effective," DeFazio said.
He also asked if a testing mandate would need to be extended to
other travel modes like buses, trains and interstate trucking
and personal vehicle travel.
The federal government has been mulling additional measures
to fight the spread of the coronavirus. A senior Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention official said last week that
officials were "actively looking" at mandatory testing.
Last week, the United States implemented mandatory COVID-19
testing for nearly all arriving international passengers and
added South Africa to its ban on entry of non-U.S. citizens
arriving from most of Europe and Brazil.
Senior U.S. airline executives have said requiring testing
for domestic flights could devastate the already depressed
demand for air travel, and have been calling lawmakers and
senior Biden administration officials to raise concerns.
Representative Rodney Davis, a Republican, said at the
hearing such testing could "punish this industry and stop it at
its most critical time."
Aviation unions last week called for $15 billion in
additional payroll support for airlines. Davis said he supported
Airline assistance is not part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19
relief proposed by President Joe Biden that is currently under
consideration in Congress.
Asked if Biden supports airline assistance, White House
spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday "the priorities
of the president are already in the bill" but added it could
change as Congress debates it.
(Reporting by David Shepardson
Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)