Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) strongly opposes the implementation of a pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirement for domestic air travel.
Such a mandate would decimate domestic air travel demand, put aviation jobs at risk, and create serious unintended consequences.
International travel demand is down as much as 48% since the implementation of a pre-departure testing requirement. Decreases in domestic travel demand would run even higher as the cost of testing in many cases would exceed the cost of travel. This reality would simply cause travelers to choose an alternative method of travel with a much greater probability of exposure.
Labor, air carriers, and regulators have developed a data-driven, multi-faceted, layered approach to air travel, providing travelers a safe means of travel with low risk of COVID-19 transmission. In contrast, driving, by the CDC’s own admission, places travelers at a higher risk.
“Making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.” — CDC: Domestic Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Implementing a domestic testing requirement would also overwhelm testing and lab resources. While feasible for international travel, a domestic travel testing mandate would require a 42% increase in daily testing nationwide. This would present a waste of critical resources as air travel accounts for a small number of COVID-19 transmissions.
COVID-19 has devastated the airlines, causing some to cease operations altogether and leaving others with insurmountable levels of debt. Any further reduction in demand would lead to more failures and tens of thousands of workers losing their jobs while simultaneously doing little to prevent the spread of the disease.
Cases of COVID-19 are trending downward and the newly implemented federal mask mandate, combined with our data-driven layered approach to safe air travel is producing results. The focus going forward should be on vaccination distribution. Increased vaccination rates combined with existing COVID-19 safety protocols are the keys to success when it comes to defeating this virus and returning the U.S. airline industry to profitability.