Senate bill would require domestic flyers to provide COVID-19 vaccination proof

Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced the legislation

A new Senate bill would require domestic flyers to provide proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday introduced the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, which would require all passengers on domestic airline flights to either be fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative for COVID-19 or have fully recovered from the disease.

The bill would require the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop national vaccination standards and procedures related to COVID-19 and domestic air travel.


In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would be required to make recommendations for COVID-19 vaccine use in health care settings and among health care personnel in different settings. 

The legislation, Feinstein's office said, builds upon a current CDC order – issued in January –  requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of having recovered from it for all air passengers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country.

The office noted that the Biden administration said in September that it would ease its virus restrictions for foreign flights to America, allowing foreigners to fly into the U.S. this fall with vaccination proof and a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their flight.

The changes are slated to take effect in November and White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said that the CDC would require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers to facilitate tracing.

Feinstein cited the holiday season travel COVID-19 spread in 2020 as one of the main reasons for the bill. 

"We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge. We simply cannot allow that to happen again," the senator said in a statement

"Ensuring that air travelers protect themselves and their destination communities from this disease is critical to prevent the next surge, particularly if we confront new, more virulent variants of COVID-19," she added. "This bill complements similar travel requirements already in place for all air passengers – including Americans – who fly to the United States from foreign countries. This includes flights from foreign countries with lower COVID-19 rates than many U.S. states."

"It only makes sense that we also ensure the millions of airline passengers that crisscross our country aren’t contributing to further transmission, especially as young children remain ineligible to be vaccinated," Feinstein said.


The bill is supported by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Public Health Association.

"Vaccination is a critical strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccination requirements in multiple settings are an important mechanism to boost vaccination rates, prevent infections and hospitalizations and save lives," Barbara Alexander, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and professor of medicine and pathology at the Duke University School of Medicine, commented in the release.

Feinstein's release cites research from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mayo Clinic Proceedings and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

However, the U.S. Travel Association, reacting to comments from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, argued in a Sept. 13 statement that research "overwhelmingly points to the safety of air travel as long as masks are worn," noting that the federal mask mandate for all forms of public transportation and U.S. airports was extended through January 2022. 

Citing research from the Harvard School of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said that the proper tools were already in place to enable safe air travel for Americans.

"U.S. Travel has long maintained that there should be no mandatory vaccination requirement for domestic travel. Such a policy would have an unfair, negative impact on families with young children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine," said Barnes. 

"While U.S. Travel does not endorse a national vaccine mandate, we continue to believe that vaccines are the fastest path back to normalcy for all, and we strongly encourage all who are eligible to get a vaccine immediately to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors," she said.


While some airlines have required employees to be fully vaccinated, Australian airline Qantas is expected to become the first carrier to mandate vaccinations for passengers.

Alternatively, some U.S. airline leaders have called such a mandate "logically impractical," "incredibly cumbersome" and suggested it would "actually bottleneck the domestic travel system."