Democrats Urge Joe Biden to Impose Vaccine Requirements for Domestic Flights

Dozens of Democrat lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to impose vaccine requirements or proof of a negative COVID test on domestic air travel.

In a letter last week, 36 Democrats, led by Reps. Don Beyer and Ritchie Torres, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, asked the president to take the "necessary and long overdue step" to reduce the chances of a winter surge in coronavirus infections.

"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," the letter said.

It also asked the Biden Administration to implement coronavirus safety protocols for trains and other modes of public transport.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people delay travel until they are fully vaccinated and testing before and after travel.

The U.S. last week reopened to many international travelers. The rules require adult foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated before boarding their flight and or to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Unvaccinated Americans have to show proof of a negative COVID test within a day of international travel. Those who are vaccinated need to take a test within three days of departure. But this doesn't apply to flights within the U.S.

In their letter, the lawmakers said imposing similar requirements for domestic air travel would help limit the spread of the virus as Americans travel around the country during the holidays.

"Many Americans remain reluctant to spending extended periods of time in enclosed public spaces due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure," they said in the letter. "Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for domestic flights will help alleviate these concerns for traveling."

Increasing Vaccine Acceptance

The lawmakers also touted "the success of vaccine requirements in the private sector" and said requiring proof of vaccination for domestic air travel "has the potential to increase vaccine acceptance among the public."

They pointed to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation that showed unvaccinated people would be more likely to get fully vaccinated if it was a requirement for air travel.

Beyer also introduced legislation in September that would require vaccinations or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel for domestic airlines and Amtrak trips.

The bill, called the "Safe Travels Act," would also require airport and Amtrak employees to show proof of vaccination or to submit to weekly COVID testing.

"Requiring airport and Amtrak travelers and employees to provide a proof of COVID vaccine or negative test is just common sense," Beyer said at the time.

The White House has been contacted for comment.

Passenger waits for airport train
A passenger waits for a train at the Airport Transit System of O'Hare International Airport on November 3, 2021, in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images