U.S. Will Require Negative COVID-19 Test for Travelers on Incoming International Flights

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new requirement for incoming air travelers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding any inbound flight to the United States.

covid 19 airport testing

Travelers will need to show proof of a viral test within three days of their flight. The policy will be implemented  on January 26, 2021. Those who don’t produce documentation of a negative lab test, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 infection, or do not wish to comply won’t be permitted to board.

The measure is designed to slow the spread of the virus while the U.S. ramps up vaccination efforts amid a surge in new cases.

While the airline industry has been at the forefront of mitigation efforts and flying has largely been seen as a safe way to travel, this additional policy should help keep airports and aircraft safer while vaccinations get implemented and we build toward herd immunity.

Should the U.S. extend this policy to domestic flights too? We’re hearing rumblings that it might be happening. Sound off in the comments. We’d love to hear what you think.

This is a developing story. As CheapAir receives new information, we will update you here on the blog.

53 Comments

  1. Yes, I do agree have to start somewhere. Yes it may hurt a lot of people but we can’t keep going on and on like this.

  2. All I know is that the planes are full to capacity and don’t feel safe with people on top of one another.

      1. Hi Kathy, yes. If you plan to tour internationally, at this time you will be asked for proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 3-days before boarding your return flight.

      2. 1st able who wants to tour at this time. But yes, what of the sentence you did not undertand?? it is clear all coming into the USA no matter the reasons you were out.

  3. For the domestic traveler that still has to fly often, getting tested often could be a big issue
    Some people would have to test every 3-4 days
    How would that work if you are not in a familiar area etc

    1. As of now, it is not required for domestic travel. However, some states do require a negative test result, like Hawaii. Check the state you are traveling to or from for their policy. Some states may require a quarantine period without a COVID-19 test.

  4. I am right now not in my state. flying back to my state around one month later. Do I still need covid-19
    test when I fly back?

    1. Within the U.S. it is not required, but you may want to look into specific rules your state or the state you are flying to has. Some states require a test, like Hawaii, or may require a quarantine period without a test.

  5. I agree with this rule.. we need to save American lives and american people first as this virus has been really brutal on us… and what is wrong when we have a hardliners drawn for th protection of our fellow citizens. We Re not stopping travel but just asking for our safeguards…

    1. According to the CDC, at this time all air passengers traveling to the US, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery. From articles I have read, the vaccine helps the person who has it not get ill. However, it is not fully known yet if this means the person cannot get asymptomatic COVID-19 and pass it on to others. Most likely, until more is known or a majority of people get vaccinated, proof or a negative COVID-19 test will be required.

      1. I don’t see how this is accurate. If you get a vaccine, you are immunized against getting Covid-19 once the antibodies are established which is about a week after the second dose. if you are immune, how can you get the virus and if you can’t get it, how can you pass it on? So whoever wrote this on CHEAPAIR site, please check again with the CDC. The answer you gave doesn’t make sense.

        1. Hi Erika, According to the CDC website “at this time all air passengers traveling to the US, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery.” You can check for updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html.

          We do not know the CDC’s reasoning for requiring a negative COVID-19 test for those vaccinated. However, my comment was referencing a WSJ article, “Pfizer and Moderna, the companies that developed the vaccines authorized in the U.S. so far, say their vaccines are about 95% effective at preventing people from getting sick with Covid symptoms. But there’s not enough evidence yet on whether the vaccines also prevent asymptomatic infection and transmission.” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-you-still-spread-covid-19-after-you-get-vaccinated-11610379107) Hopefully, soon, there will be more information. It is very possible that at a future date proof of vaccine will be all that is needed to fly internationally. However, at this time the CDC is requesting proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Thank you

        2. The vaccine only help you to get a minor reaction to Covid being vaccinated does not mean you cannot get
          it will be mild just like the flu vaccine does not stop you to get the flu . use your head and common sense. Deuh!..

        1. Hi, At this time all air passengers traveling to the US, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery.

    1. Yes, at this time all air passengers traveling to the US, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to fly.

  6. I have two doctorates, so I’m not un-educated. This policy will do little, if anything, to slow the spread. As a practical matter the virus is endemic within the population and these steps do not prevent more cases from being introduced into the country. It’s really about the optics of “doing something”. You only have to look at comments like “at least they are trying” or “it won’t hurt” to se that that is the effect and the goal.

  7. International flights i can understand but domestic is overkill and nothing more than a power and control issue. Just grateful i don’t have to fly. Vaccines should never be mandated in a free country by government or private industry. Hopefully we can stay free. And the key word about this vaccine is EXPERIMENTAL!!! No long term proof of effectiveness or MAJOR problems. And testing constantly for frequent flyers is a joke and may have medical consequences.

    1. Hi Cynthia, this policy if for people flying internationally to the US. It is not required domestically but some states do have a quarantine policy. Thank you

  8. If on vacation and one get covid and have a positive test upon returning to the US
    Obviously one will need to quarantine however you’re on vacation in a foreign country where you are not a citizens where would one quarantine? Cost? how long away from ones home etc, please advise as per the CDC

    1. Hi Ruth, according to the CDC website, the “CDC does not reimburse and is unable to help travelers get reimbursements for travel expenses as a result of canceled or delayed travel because of COVID-19 or testing requirements for air passengers flying to the US.” Most likely, you would need to book your own accommodations, but you check with the local authorities or US Embassy to see if there is any assistance to stranded travelers. Or check if your travel insurance covers COVID-19 expenses.

  9. As a healthcare and a frontline worker, I would highly suggest this. There’s no social distancing in the airline and many people are asymptomatic but they are carriers. If people will just listen on the meaning of “non-essential” travel and wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and limiting it to your immediate household, we could have flatten the curve. We are hurting in the hospitals. I hope TSA and CDC will implement negative Covid testing on domestic flights as well.

  10. Biden has announced that anyone entering the USA must isolate. If you have the vaccine are you still required to isolate? If so how long do you need to isolate? With the vaccine and without the vaccine?

    1. Hi Vicky, at this time, quarantine is still a recommendation though some states do have a mandatory quarantine period. There is no mention if a vaccine changes that. I think until more is known, people with vaccines will fall under the same rules as those without a vaccine. For example, people who have vaccines, are also required to take a COVID-19 test and show a negative result. As more information is obtained these policies can change in the future.

  11. How will they know that you are staying home quarantine after you come back from an international travel? Do they keep checking on you to see if you’re home?

    1. Hi Karina, at this point the quarantine is not official on a federal level. The Secretary of HHS was asked to present President Biden with a plan for implementing a quarantine requirement that’s in line with CDC recommendations. If anything becomes official, it will likely be self-monitored like most state quarantines but stay posted for updates.

  12. If you test negative flying back to the USA then I don’t think you should have to quarantine when you arrive home

  13. I am presently in Jamaica and will need to be tested prior to returning to the US. Small price to pay, if you ask me! I provided a negative Covid test taken no more than 10 days prior to travel and obtained a travel authorization from the Jamaican Health Dept to enter. I was thoroughly screened upon arrival at the airport and resort. The resort has hand sanitizers everywhere and requires masks on property except when eating or on the beach. I have had my vaccine (both doses) as well as having had Covid in November and have a signed affidavit from my physician. Inconvenient? Maybe, but as long as other countries are working so hard to keep everyone safe, I’ll be traveling. Oh, the airline (Delta) did a great job too.

    1. How were you able to get two shots already? I am 79-1/2 with Diabetes and a very serious form of arthritis. Also weak lungs. I have NO idea when they will get to my “group”, as it keeps changing all the time. But they are literally giving shots to those 65 – 75, but leaving those older for later? I follow this pretty close and I just don’t understand the organization of all this. Oh, I guess I DO understand, but will “stay nice”. 🙂

  14. I would like to now about quarantine for inbound travelers to the US from overseas .Did president Biden,s executive order explain or mention anything about quarantine ? and how it works ?

    1. Hi Gassan, technically, President Biden has not made quarantine upon arrival a mandatory requirement on a federal level for international travelers arriving in the United States. While some states do have arrival requirements that involve quarantines, the federal government has not done so. The executive order calls for the HHS secretary to coordinate a plan to present to the president that includes “CDC-recommended periods of self-quarantine or self-isolation after a flight to the United States from a foreign country. You can see full details here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/21/executive-order-promoting-covid-19-safety-in-domestic-and-international-travel/

  15. I just had my first shot. I did not have a problem. Arm area was a little sore the next day and next day fine. go back in Feb for the 2nd shot. We are doing the shots as we travel and felt the proof of vaccination would not make us test. I do not trust the test. we have been told too many time about false positives. We have a number of trips planned if this is the case we will cancel because we do not trust the tests.

    1. Hi Tammy, It is great that you got a vaccine! However, to travel internationally, at this time, the CDC is also requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test for flights entering the US. Depending on when or where you are traveling that may change. We recommend checking closer to your departure. Thank you

  16. Travel, trade, tourism, missions and so much more will be negatively affected unless airports everywhere start opening testing labs. Most 3rd world or underdeveloped countries have only scattered testing locations and no reliability standards or know turn around times. I am canceling my trip to Guatemala in March as testing not closely available to area I was planning to visit. — rule is reactionary with little thought to fallout. After all, it’s the US that has the severe levels compared to most of the rest of the world. If it was really based on science at all, they would first require it for domestic travel.

  17. I hope everybody who gets into a plane show a COVID test. Someone I know flew infected and got everybody else infected and it was national flight. So the answer to me is absolutelty AGREE!!!!

  18. Great, but the borders will be open wide to welcome anyone, no COVID test required. Thanks Joe Biden……keeping us safe… a joke.

  19. I am flying from Wilmington NC thru Charlotte NC to St Thomas USVI on feb 4. What do I need to fly concerning g COVID? I am flying back F b 11 from St Thomas usvi to Charlotte Nc to Wilmington NC final destination. What do I need when I fly out of St Thomas to the mainland?

    1. Hi Damian, according to the CDC, 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 or possession to a US state. US territories and possessions of the US include American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Thank you!

  20. I’ll be traveling to Alaska soon. I was told Alaska is considered an international flight. Is that correct? If so, will flights from there have to have Covid test results?

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