March 16, 2022
International travel has been hard hit by COVID-19, but more than two years into the pandemic, there are signs of a gradual recovery in long-haul flights. For many operators, a return to international travel will require a reeducation on U.S. entry procedures, which have changed dramatically to accommodate attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19 variants.
“Like most countries, the entry process into the U.S. is a very different experience than it was before the pandemic. NBAA continuously updates its resources nbaa.org to ensure that the business aviation community is fully informed on all entry requirements, but for now, operators, crewmembers and passengers should be prepared to comply with the most cautious entry requirements, as different regulations can overlap, even when flight itineraries seem unconnected,” said Brian Koester, CAM, NBAA’s director, flight operations and regulations.
For entry to the U.S., the most significant change for non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers, for now, is the requirement to be fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine approved either by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. Proof of vaccination status is required by every crewmember and passenger prior to boarding in their originating country.
These requirements place new responsibilities on business aircraft operators. Now, operators must match the name and date of birth to confirm the passenger is the same person reflected on the proof of vaccination and determine that an official source issued the record. Operators must also ensure that all passengers and crew meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) definition for being “fully vaccinated” and confirm that the requisite number of doses have been administered at least two weeks before departure.
In addition, every passenger – regardless of citizenship – must show proof of a negative viral test result within one day of travel to the U.S. Both nucleic acid amplification tests, such as a PCR test, and antigen tests qualify.
There are limited exceptions to the vaccination requirements, namely for children under 18 and people with medical contradictions to the vaccines, but everyone aged two or older must comply with the negative test requirement.
Contact tracing remains a critical component of many national programs to prevent the introduction, transmission and spread of new variants of COVID-19. Under CDC rules, all aircraft flying into the U.S. must maintain – and promptly turn over to the CDC, when needed – contact information that will enable public health officials to follow up with inbound air travelers who are potentially infected or have been exposed to someone who is infected.
Importantly, operators must keep this information for a minimum of 30 days after the flight’s departure and, if required, file it with the CDC within 24 hours of a request.
Crewmembers are exempt from these contact tracing requirements when acting in an official capacity or deadheading. Operators may print and provide crews a letter to use as proof of their exemption.
Under current rules, operators must also collect passenger attestations prior to boarding a flight from a foreign country to the U.S. Collecting the attestation form is important, as it shifts liability for fraudulent information from the flight department to the passenger.