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UPDATE 1-Boeing says requiring COVID-19 tests before U.S. domestic flights could pose economic risks

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David Shepardson
·2 min read
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(Adds details from briefing Monday, no White House comment,more details, Amtrak letter)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Two senior Boeingexecutives have warned the White House that requiring COVID-19tests before traveling on U.S. domestic passenger airlineflights could pose significant economic harm.

"Imposing such a burden on the already financiallybeleaguered airline industry has the potential for severeunintended consequences that will ripple across the entireeconomy," Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Stan Dealand Chief Aerospace Safety Officer Michael Delaney wrote in aletter. The letter, seen by Reuters, was sent Friday and had notpreviously been reported.

Boeing and the White House declined to comment on theletter.

The federal government has been mulling additional measuresto fight the spread of the coronavirus but has made no decisionson adding new requirements on domestic air travel.

A senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official(CDC) said on Jan. 26 that officials were "actively looking" atmandatory testing - days after new mandatory testingrequirements for most international passengers took effect.

CDC officials have repeatedly urged Americans not to travelunless necessary.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday that additionalscreening at places where people gather like airports could helpdetect more asymptomatic cases. "If we are traveling this wouldbe yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease thespread," she said.

Officials told Reuters there is no specific proposalcurrently being vetted by the administration and a new meetingwith airlines could take place late this week.

The Boeing letter questioned the air travel emphasis if theCDC's focus is the "corridor" around travel rather thanaircraft.

"If this broader travel journey is, in fact, the mainconcern of the CDC, then science would dictate all aspects oftravel should receive similar scrutiny including hotels, carrental agencies, mass transit, and restaurants," the lettersaid.

Amtrak Chief Executive Bill Flynn told reporters Friday hewas unsure how requiring testing before train trips "wouldactually work and how it could actually be enforced."

The Boeing letter raised concerns about testing costs andavailability, noting costs could easy top average base airfare.

"If a testing mandate is prescribed by the administration,funding should also be provided to comply," Boeing said.

On Thursday, a top aviation union leader warned mandatorydomestic COVID-19 testing requirements could devastate theairline industry and potentially lead to bankruptcies.

Representative Peter DeFazio, the chair of theTransportation and Infrastructure Committee, raised concernsabout domestic testing requirements in a meeting with PresidentJoe Biden Friday, a spokeswoman for DeFazio confirmed.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Reuters lastweek decisions about domestic testing will be "guided by factsand by science."

He added: "Safety is our bottom line because we think that’snot only the right answer for passengers and workers butultimately it’s the right economic answer too — so that there’sfull confidence among the traveling public."(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Chris Reese and Lincoln Feast.)