Travel News

Covid Testing Required for Domestic Flights? Not So Fast…

Written by Charlie

With talk of negative covid testing required for domestic flights, here is a look at why this may not be something we see implemented very quickly.

Yesterday, news came out that the CDC is considering the option of beginning to require a negative Covid-19 test before passengers are allowed to board domestic flights. This week, the new requirement for negative tests for international arrivals was put into place and now it seems that domestic flights are on the table. Here is why I don’t think this will happen – at least for a while.

Negative Covid Tests Required for Domestic Flights?

Proponents for this new requirement have been and will be pointing to Hawaii’s requirements about testing. This has been in place since October and it was required for a negative test before passengers boarded their flight to the island state.

However, there are a few big reasons I do not think we will see this for all domestic flights, at least for a while. Let me know what you think down in the comments.

Covid Testing Not Reliable for Timing

At present, it is still quite difficult to get a Covid-19 test. Many of the pharmacies that do tests either do not let you make an appointment for a test unless you fit within a parameter of prerequisites or are backed up for appointments.

There are private testing sites that you can go to (see my review of Sameday Testing) but these can cost quite a bit – anywhere from something like $50 at some companies up to almost $200, depending on the type of test. Lastly, there are mail-in tests that you can order but even those still take at least 24 – 36 hours after receipt and some of them are not allowed for children under the age of 18.

For a requirement for negative tests for domestic flights to be put into place, there has to be a more robust, inexpensive testing flow.

Some believe that airlines would take this upon themselves as they are already setup to have testing done for certain flights and in some airports. But, this would be a huge expense and it still would require the passengers to be in the airport for tests – how is this helping anyone if someone is positive and at the airport?

Airlines Will Push Back

With just under 500,000 travelers making their way through TSA checkpoints yesterday (first time below 500,000 in a while), that is still a lot of people traveling domestically. Consider that – 500,000 people would have needed to have been tested and provided with a negative test for those passengers to take place. And that is just one day.

Airlines will have to accommodate passengers who test positive with some kind of system that goes beyond no change fee – likely no fare difference either – since this is totally out of passengers’ hands. They will want more money from the government for this mandated policy to make up for any losses they may incur.

Consider also how many passengers are flying within 24 hours notice – maybe business but especially for some kind of emergency situation. What about the people that need to travel same day due to maybe a loss in the family or some serious condition? The anger will be vented at airlines if this is not allowed (since there is no way the airline will be requiring proof of test before the ticket is purchased which means the passenger would be stopped at the airport).

For sure, the airlines will push back hard against this. They will see huge customer drops right as they are trying to rebuild their domestic route networks from 2020. They have already assured passengers that their aircraft filtration systems are strong enough to protect against the virus onboard.

Will It Be Necessary?

Hear me out on this. Already, it is a new mandate that requires mask use in airports and on planes. Mask use has already been told to us that it cuts down on the possibility of transmitting/receiving the virus. Airlines are removing passengers that refuse masks, etc. So, mask use is already in play for air travel.

Couple that with the airlines’ work at sanitization onboard and the air filtration system as well as passengers cleaning their seats when coming onboard and you have a pretty clean environment on airplanes.

Lastly, we are seeing more getting the vaccine and over 25 million Americans that have already had coronavirus. By current data, it would seem that those 25 million Americans have antibodies against the virus for at least months if not years.

If people cannot travel by plane and need to travel, they will travel by car. That means gas station stops, hotels, shopping stops, etc. There will be a lot more ground covered and more people brought into contact with zero testing whatsoever. So, will we face mandatory testing before crossing state lines next?

Bottom Line

Maybe we will see the mandatory negative tests before domestic flights are taken but I certainly do not think the infrastructure necessary for this is even close to allowing it. By the time it is up to speed, how many more people will be vaccinated?

What do you think – will we see this negative test requirement become mandatory or not? Have you taken flights in the last few months and do you feel safe enough with current protocols in place?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • So masks and distancing don’t work now. Maybe two masks? Three? Maybe only vaccinated pax? Plus a negative test? Maybe shut down all travel forever until Covid is 100% eradicated? The goalpost movement in this country is a joke. And no, I didn’t vote for Trump in case anyone cares. Charlie, this is not directed at you but the incoming comments and current state of affairs in the US(and globally, to an extent). Keep up your good work!

  • Couple of points I would make:

    1. As with Hawaii, many places (Massachusetts) have had a testing requirement in place for many months. It’s a big inconvenience, but it can be done. Here in Southern California my wife and I have paid $250 each for a 24-hr PCR test so we could fly to Boston to visit family.

    2. The pain could be alleviated substantially if the rapid (and cheap) antigen test were allowed for domestic travel, plus perhaps temperature screening. Certainly the antigen test isn’t perfect, but it is being used in many contexts with success.

    3. As the vaccines roll out, a test exemption for those already vaccinated would also be very helpful. It would reduce the strain on the testing systems, increase the number of people who could fly again (helping the airlines), and also incentivize people to get the vaccine (which is good for everyone).

  • Hmm, I really don’t think you’re allowed to make posts with this kind of information Charlie. This might result in being removed from the Internet. Have you checked with Jack Dorsey to see if your opinion is allowed?

  • Hmm, I really don’t think you’re allowed to make posts with this kind of information Charlie. This might result in being removed from the Internet. Have you checked with Jack Dorsey to see if your opinion is allowed?

  • There are already lateral flow assays like pregnancy tests
    Cost should be about$20.00 fifteen minutes from saliva. These would be reasonable to implement.

  • The problem is not necessarily the regulations although some appear to be extreme (like PCR with limited time). In our last trip to and from LAX (before the latest lockdown) was not the airlines, but the airport. LAX was a mess in all aspects. All the space and control Delta put on checking in was sent to hell by the airport security (this is not a TSA issue either because the TSA in ALT works OK). The other weak link is the passenger. We still see cases of known infected people (some with symptoms) going to the airport and boarding planes. Some people just do not have common sense, or have the idea that if they infect others is not a big deal.