5 considerations about the new COVID testing requirement for incoming passengers | Travel Research Online


5 considerations about the new COVID testing requirement for incoming passengers

On January 26, a new rule for flying into the US goes into effect. The CDC issued an order requiring all incoming passengers on flights to the United States to have been tested and shown negative for COVID-19.

The specifics of the order say:

  • You must have a viral test within 72 hours of departure
  • If you test positive and have recovered, medical documentation will be required
  • It is recommended that you get tested 3-5 days after arrival in the US
  • It is recommended to self-quarantine for 7 days after arrival in the US
  • Airlines are required to deny boarding of anyone that cannot prove their negative status


Like many of us, I have not traveled in nearly a year so this new requirement for international travel can pose some issues and depending on where you may have clients, you need to be aware of them. Here are five that come to mind:

  1. Where to get a test. It is difficult enough in my town (that I know) to figure out where to get a test. In many populated areas of the world, there are free testing sites, but many may be restricted to residents. A private clinic should be located and appointments secured well in advance. If you are traveling to a remote area, additional time and routing may be required to allow for a test.
  2. Keep in mind, that there likely will be a cost involved.  You may be able to get reimbursed from your insurer, but many insurance companies will not cover out of country expenses without a special rider.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the costs for a test in the US range from free to $200.
  3. And the results. Again, referencing my own experience, I have had 5 COVID tests and I have had results back in 24 hours, 4-days, 8-days, 10-days, and I am still waiting for the results of my most recent test on December 28.  Yes, nearly a month. Here in the US, results vary depending on the lab used. But if abroad, you need to be assured that the result will be returned to you in time for your flight.  72-hours is not a terribly long time.
  4. Additional fees and costs are likely with a positive test or no test.  Refund policies on airlines will vary, so you want to be sure you are aware of them. And while they may re-accommodate you on a future flight without charge, they will not cover any costs associated with your extended stay until you can get a negative test result.
  5. But what about travel insurance? I have long been a believer that most insurance companies are in the business of taking money to deny claims.  This applies to homeowners, auto, life, boat, umbrella, and yes travel.  Some policies and riders may cover some of the expenses, but many will not. At this point, the pandemic is very much like a pre-existing condition.

The only silver lining here is that the end of the pandemic is within sight. Vaccines are rolling out and the numbers of new infections and deaths ought to start declining once we are out of this surge. And as those numbers recede, this order from the CDC likely will be relaxed and retired.

But until then, it is always best to be prepared for as many curve balls as possible, and hopefully this article provides some food for thought on that!




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