As you have heard, all US airline passengers could soon need proof of Covid-19 status before stepping on board. If enacted, that will include flights to Hawaii. A bill proposed in the U.S. Senate is pending.
At present, domestic air passengers are not subject to any COVID requirement nationally. Hawaii has its rules, known as Hawaii Safe Travels, wherein proof of US vaccination or testing is required, but only avoids mandatory quarantine. As we have said many times, scrutiny of air travelers before they can fly domestically is wholly within the federal government’s purview and cannot be enforced either by states, including Hawaii, or the airlines. In other words, Hawaii can require that visitors comply with one of three options, but can’t require proof of vaccination or testing in order to fly here.
According to a recent Harris poll, legislation to require proof of COVID status for air travel is supported by 64% of Americans. The new bill (the US Air Travel Public Safety Act) would require that airlines verify that all passengers have either digital or paper proof of being fully vaccinated, have a recent negative COVID test or fully recovered from the disease. The airlines would be required to collect contact tracing information, something that the CDC previously proposed but that the airline industry has resisted. Airlines argued that any additional restrictions placed on domestic flights would be bad for travel.
“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.” — US Senator Diane Feinstein.
Another goal of the bill is to align a national standard with new international air standards being deployed starting in November.
Where Hawaii Safe Travels fits in.
If passed, this new requirement will be largely duplicative with Hawaii Safe Travels and would result in either its elimination or significant modification. The only other aspect of Hawaii Safe Travels not accommodated within the proposed legislation is the questionably useful health questionnaire that Hawaii arrivals must complete within 24 hours of travel to the islands.
Feinstein said, “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.” Not mentioned, however, is the overlap with the Hawaii Safe travels program.
International arrival requirements in US Mainland and Hawaii.
Starting next month, the US is to require all foreign travelers boarding flights to anywhere in the US, including Hawaii, will need to show proof of vaccination status plus a negative Covid-19 test. Also, new, any COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization will now be accepted for travel to the US.
US travelers returning to the US, including Hawaii.
At the same time, US citizens and permanent residents will only require proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure to the US.
Travelers not fully vaccinated will still be able to fly to the US with added testing and contact tracing requirements. Those not vaccinated will be required to complete testing within 24 hours of boarding a US-bound flight plus an additional test upon arrival. We have not seen details yet of how the arrival tests or children too young to be vaccinated will be handled.
We look forward to your thoughts.