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CDC just released guidelines for airlines to verify a traveler’s negative COVID-19 results

April 09, 2021
4 min read
CDC just released guidelines for airlines to verify a traveler’s negative COVID-19 results
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday publicly released guidelines for airlines to verify negative COVID-19 test results and proof of recovery from the disease.

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The guidelines, which clarify existing CDC policies, state that travelers who present a negative COVID-19 test are subject to meeting five requirements:

  • The test must be a viral test, such as a nucleic acid amplification (NAAT) or antigen.
  • The test must be negative.
  • The test must also include where the test was performed and the name and contact information for the lab or healthcare provider who performed the test.
  • The test must be collected three days or less before flight departure to the U.S.
  • The test must include information that identifies the person and must have the person’s name and at least one additional identifier such as date of birth, age, and passport number.

If a passenger is providing documentation stating that they’ve recovered from COVID, they are subject to meeting six requirements:

  • The test must be a viral test.
  • The test must be positive.
  • The test must also include where the test was performed and the name and contact information for the lab or healthcare provider who performed the test.
  • The test must show a specimen collection date within the last 90 days.
  • Travelers must also have a signed letter stating the passenger is cleared for travel from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official, signed and on official letterhead that shows the name, address, and phone number.
  • The test must include information that identifies the person and must have the person’s name and at least one additional identifier such as date of birth, age, and passport number.

It’s unclear if this document is already known to U.S. airlines and their employees. This new airline guidance comes a week after the CDC announced that fully vaccinated Americans can travel at “low-risk” to themselves.

The agency said last week that fully vaccinated people could travel internationally without getting a COVID-19 test before travel unless it is required by the international destination and don’t need to self-quarantine after returning to the U.S. Travelers will only need to quarantine if required by a state or local jurisdiction.

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All travelers flying to the United States — fully vaccinated travelers included — are required to get a viral test within three days before departure. Travelers flying to U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and those arriving via a land border like Mexico or Canada, are exempt.

Related: 17 things you need to know about getting COVID-19 tested for US-bound international flights

Prior to the new guidelines, the CDC hadn’t offered much guidance for airlines on how to verify traveler health documentation. Questions have been raised about the possibility of travelers faking negative COVID-19 tests -- and there have been several reports about a so-called black market for negative COVID-19 test results.

Airlines must confirm the negative result (or recovery from COVID-19) for all passengers before boarding. The CDC said earlier this year that air passengers would be required to confirm that the information they present “is true in the form of an attestation.”

The CDC also said that airlines are responsible for ensuring any translation accuracy and may not shift this responsibility to a third party.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023