Do I Need A COVID-19 Test Before Boarding A Flight To The United States?

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On January 12, 2021, CDC announced an Order requiring all air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.

Can an airline deny boarding a passenger if they don’t have a negative COVID-19 test?

Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

What happens if there is a sick passenger on an international or domestic flight during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Under current federal regulations, pilots must report all illnesses and deaths to CDC before arriving to a U.S. destination. According to CDC protocols, if a sick traveler has a contagious disease that is a risk to others on board the airplane, CDC works with local and state health departments and international public health agencies to contact exposed passengers and crew.

Be sure to give the airline your current contact information when booking your ticket so you can be notified if you are exposed to a sick traveler on a flight.

For more information, see the CDC webpage Protecting Travelers’ Health from Airport to Community: Investigating Contagious Diseases on Flights.

Do travelers need to be quarantined when traveling internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel.

Can flying on an airplane increase my risk of getting COVID-19?

Yes. Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Does the COVID-19 negative test order apply to all flights or just commercial flights for passengers arriving to the US?

This order applies to all flights, including private flights and general aviation aircraft (charter flights). Passengers traveling by air into the US are required to have proof of testing regardless of flight type.

Do I need a negative COVID-19 test to enter the US if I’m flying from US territories?

No, the Order to present a documentation of a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 does not apply to air passengers flying from a US territory to a US state.

US territories include American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

Do airlines need to keep copies of passenger COVID-19 test results?

No, passengers must show a copy of their test results to airline employees or the aircraft operator before boarding, but the airline or aircraft operator does not need to retain copies of test results.

What type of covid test is required for travelling to the United States?

The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Do I need to get tested before traveling to the United States if I recently recovered from COVID-19?

If you have had a positive viral test in the past 3 months, and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel instead with documentation of your positive viral test results and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”

What is the CDC’s recommendation for COVID-19 testing before traveling?

CDC recommends predeparture testing with a viral test no more than 3 days before departure for other travelers, including those departing from the United States for international destinations or traveling domestically within the United States.

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Do I need to be tested for COVID-19 before or after traveling in the USA if I have been vaccinated?

• If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.

How soon should I get a COVID-19 test before travelling?

If your planned itinerary has you arriving via one or more connecting flights, your test can be taken within the 3 days before the departure of the first flight.

What should I do if am overseas and I can’t get tested before my flight during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Passengers should contact the airline regarding options for changing their departure date to allow time for a test, see if the airline has identified options for testing, or if there are options available for changing their flights to transit through a location where they can get tested before boarding their final flight to the United States.

Does the COVID-19 negative test order apply to land border crossings?

No, the requirements of this Order only apply to air travel into the US.

Can a COVID-19 test taken before departure from the US be used to return within the 3-day time frame?

If a trip is shorter than 3 days, a viral test taken in the United States can be used to fulfill the requirements of the Order as long as the specimen was taken no more than three days before the return flight to the US departs. If the return travel is delayed longer than 3 days after the test, the passenger will need to be retested before the return flight.

Travelers considering this option should additionally consider the availability of appropriate testing capacity at their destinations, and the time frame needed to obtain results, as a contingency when making plans for travel.

What do I do if I test positive for COVID-19 before a flight?

People should self-isolate and delay their travel if symptoms develop or a pre-departure test result is positive until they have recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must refuse to board anyone who does not present a negative test result for COVID-19 or documentation of recovery.

Do I need to get another COVID-19 test if I have a connecting flight?

If your itinerary has you arriving to the US via one or more connecting flights, your test can be taken within the 3 days before the departure of the first flight.

How does the CDC determine if an airline carrier has tested negative for COVID-19?

CDC expects that air carriers or operators will determine whether their employee’s travel meets the requirements of the exemption. CDC also recommends that crew travel with an official statement (paper or electronic copy) from the carrier or operator that the employee’s travel meets the requirements of the exemption.

Which airlines have vaccine mandates?

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue also joined United Airlines in requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Research has shown that workplaces with vaccine mandates are seeing vaccination rates of 90% or higher, where even the most hesitant have chosen to get the shots.

Can traveling to visit family or friends increase my chances of getting and spreading COVID-19?

Yes. CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s Domestic Travel or International Travel recommendations for unvaccinated people.

What are the steps you should take after traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic?

• Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.

– Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.

– If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.

• If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

• Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.

Should I travel during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Delay travel until you are fully vaccinated. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s recommendations for unvaccinated people.

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