It’s official – from January 26 all international passengers will need a negative Covid test that is less than 72 hours old to board a flight to the US.

The US CDC have now published the full details of the requirements here, which includes a pretty thorough Q&A section.

Here’s a summary of the main points:

  • All international travellers aged two years or older need a test, including citizens and foreigners.
  • Applies to all flights, including private and charter flights.
  • Applies only to international flights – from “anywhere that is not a state, territory, or possession of the United States”. Therefore, passengers do not need a test if coming from: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
  • It needs to be a “viral test” (NAAT or antigen test) – antibody tests will not be accepted. The PCR test is a type of NAAT test (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test), so those are accepted. You can read more about the different types of tests here.
  • The test must be done within three calendar days of departure to the US. If passengers have one or more connecting flights to the US, it gets a bit more complicated.
  • Airlines and operators will need to check that their passengers meet the requirements prior to travel.
  • Crew members, whether working or in an assigned deadhead status, are exempt from the testing requirement. Or as the CDC’s FAQs say: “Crew members on official duty, whether working or in an assigned deadhead status (transportation of a flight crew member as a passenger or non-operating flight crew member), are exempt from the testing requirement as long as they follow industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 as set forth in relevant Safety Alerts for Operators (SAFOs) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”
  • If passengers can prove they have already had Covid, have recovered from it, and can provide documentation to this effect, they don’t need to get a test.
  • Operators must distribute and collect Passenger Attestation Forms prior to embarkation, and keep copies of these for 2 years. Operators do not need to keep copies of passenger test results.
  • There is no mandatory quarantine on arrival, but the CDC recommends travellers take a test three to five days later and self-isolate for seven days.

Important to note: the old rules banning certain pax from entry still stands: with specific exemptions, foreign nationals who have been present within the past 14 days in the European Schengen area, the UK and Ireland, mainland China, Iran, and Brazil will still be barred from entry – with or without a negative test. The ‘specific exemptions’ part basically means this: US residents and family members, and flight crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas. For more details on this rule, check the US Government webpage here.

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David Mumford

David Mumford

Opsgroup team member. International flight ops news hound.

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