Aircraft Operators/Airlines/Crew FAQs Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19

General

Does this order apply to all flights or just commercial flights?

This order applies to all flights, including private flights and general or business aviation aircraft (charter flights). Passengers two years of age or older traveling by air into the United States are required to present a negative test result or documentation of recovery regardless of flight type.

Does the Order apply at pre-clearance ports?

Yes, the Order applies to air passengers departing from a foreign country to the United States, including those at pre-clearance ports.

Proof of Vaccination

For information about what is considered proof of being fully vaccinated see Technical Instructions for Implementing Presidential Proclamation Advancing Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic and CDC’s Order implementing the Presidential Proclamation.

Airline Checklist and Scripts

Airline staff can use this checklist to help them confirm passengers’ COVID-19 proof of vaccination and negative test result or documentation of recovery (as applicable) before they board flights to the United States, as required by CDC’s Orders. Click here to view the Airline Checklist pdf icon[PDF – 7 pages].

Airline staff can read the following scripts to passengers to prepare them for possible COVID-documentation checks by port of entry public health officials. There are two scripts for airlines, one to read for passengers at boarding and another at arrival. The scripts are translated into 10 languages.

Types of Tests and Confirming Results

What types of SARS-CoV-2 test are acceptable under the Order?

Passengers must be tested with a viral test that could be either an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Examples of available NAATs for SARS-CoV-2 include but are not restricted to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP), transcription-mediated amplification (TMA), nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR), and helicase-dependent amplification (HDA). The test used must be authorized for use by the relevant national authority for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the country where the test is administered. A viral test conducted for U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel, including DOD contractors, dependents, and other U.S. government employees, and tested by a DOD laboratory located in a foreign country also meets the requirements of the Order.

Can a rapid test be used to fulfill the requirements of the Order?

Rapid tests are acceptable as long as they are a viral test acceptable under the Order.

Does a self-test meet the conditions of the Order?

Passengers can use a self-test (sometimes referred to as home test) that meets the following criteria:

  • The test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test (nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or antigen test) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The testing procedure must include a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection. Some FDA-authorized self-tests that include a telehealth service may require a prescription.
  • The telehealth provider must confirm the person’s identity, observe the specimen collection and testing procedures, confirm the test result, and issue a report that meets the requirements of CDC’s Order (see “What information must be included in the test result?” below).
  • Airlines and other aircraft operators must be able to review and confirm the person’s identity and the test result details. The passenger must also be able to present the documentation of test results to U.S. officials at the port of entry and local/state health departments, if requested.

If a passenger tests positive, CDC recommends the telehealth provider report positive test results to relevant public health authorities in the passenger’s location following local requirements. The telehealth provider should also counsel the passenger on what they and their close contacts should do. This would include not traveling until they complete isolation (if infected) or quarantine (if exposed), in accordance with local and CDC’s requirements.

Some countries may restrict importation of tests that are not authorized or registered there. If passengers are considering bringing a U.S.-authorized test for use outside of the United States, they should contact authorities at their destination for information before they travel.

What information must be included on the test result?

A test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or digital copy). The documentation must include:

  1. Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)
  2. Entity issuing the result (e.g., laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)
  3. Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected 1 day before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 90 days before the flight.
  4. Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)
  5. Test result

Connecting or Delayed Flights

Does a passenger taking one or more connecting flights to the United States have to present the test before the first flight in the itinerary or the flight at the last point of departure to the United States?

Airlines and aircraft operators are required to confirm passengers’ negative test results or documentation of recovery before their last point of departure to the United States. Air passengers who are taking one or more connecting flights to the United States, may but are not required to present the test to board flights in their itinerary other than at the last point of departure.

Passengers on connecting itineraries have the option of being tested within 1 day before their first flight in a connecting itinerary or en route before their last point of departure to the United States. However, if they choose to get tested en route, they should consider where in a connecting airport testing is available and if they would be able to access it during transit. If they are unable to obtain a test en route, they must be denied boarding on a flight to the United States. Additionally, they should be aware that if they test positive en route, they will not be able to continue traveling via commercial aircraft until they have completed isolation.

Note: If a passenger planned an airline flight route itinerary incorporating one or more overnight stays en route to the US, the test must not be expired before their flight from the last point of departure. The passenger does not need to be retested if the itinerary requires an overnight connection because of limitations in flight availability.

What happens if a passenger’s flight is delayed past the 1-day limit for testing?

If the first flight in a passenger’s itinerary is delayed past the 1-day limit of testing due to a situation outside of the passenger’s control (e.g., delays because of severe weather or aircraft mechanical problem), and that delay is 24 hours or less past the 1-day limit for testing, the passenger does not need to be retested. If the delay is more than 24 hours past the 1-day limit, then the passenger will need to be retested.

If a connecting flight in a passenger’s itinerary is delayed past the 1-day limit of testing due to a situation outside of the passenger’s control (e.g., delays because of severe weather or aircraft mechanical problem), and that delay is less than 48 hours past the 1-day limit for testing, the passenger does not need to be retested. If the delay is more than 48 hours past the 1-day limit, then the passenger will need to be retested.

Exemptions

What types of crew are exempt from the requirements of the Order? What types of travel by crew are exempt from the requirements of the Order?

Crew members on official duty assigned by the airline or aircraft operator that involves operation of aircraft, or the positioning of crew not operating the aircraft (i.e., on “deadhead” status), are exempt from the requirements of the Order provided their assignment is under an airline’s or aircraft operator’s occupational health and safety program.

Crew members traveling for training, commuting to or from work, or for business reasons not associated with the operation of the aircraft are not exempt from the testing requirement. Nor are crew traveling for personal reasons, such as leisure travel.

In a positioning or “deadhead” scenario, the crew member is on the “clock” and their time and movement are directed by the airline or aircraft operator either into, from, or between operational assignments. On the other hand, “commuting” to and from locations where official duty begins and ends is considered personal travel. Crew would not be exempted from the Order when they are in a commuting status.

For the exemption to apply, the airline’s or aircraft operator’s occupational health and safety program must follow industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 as set forth in relevant Safety Alerts for Operators, i.e., SAFO 20009pdf iconexternal icon, COVID-19: Updated Interim Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Air Carriers and Crews, issued jointly by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and CDC.

Crew members that are not operating under an airline’s or aircraft operator’s occupational health and safety program as described above are not exempt from the requirements of the Order.

Other persons, such as maintenance personnel or contractors, may also be exempted if:

  1. Their travel is for the purpose of operating the aircraft or ensuring the safety of flight operations; AND
  2. The airline or aircraft operator extends its occupational health and safety program to cover these individuals and ensures these persons follow the protocols contained in SAFO and CDC guidance; AND
  3. The travel cannot be planned with sufficient time to enable the employee to take a COVID-19 test and obtain the results before the operational travel.

CDC expects that airlines and aircraft operators will determine whether their employees’ travel meets the requirements of the exemption. CDC also recommends that crew travel with an official letter (paper or electronic copy) from their employer that the crew member’s travel meets the requirements of the exemption. In lieu of providing their employees with an official letter, airlines/aircraft operators may choose to list their deadheading crew on the flight’s General Declaration to satisfy CDC’s recommendation. Crew members that are not listed on a flight’s General Declaration, such as other carriers’ deadheading crew, should continue to travel with an official letter from their employer.

Airlines and other aircraft operators who assign their crew to travel in an official duty status (i.e., position or deadhead) on an aircraft operated by another airline or aircraft operator should coordinate with that airline or operator regarding their crew members’ eligibility for an exemption from testing.

Are U.S. federal law enforcement personnel exempt from the requirements of this Order?

Official travel by U.S. federal law enforcement officers is exempt from the requirements of the order if:

  1. Federal law enforcement is carrying out a law enforcement function (e.g., for security purposes) on the aircraft; AND
  2. the urgent need to travel does not allow time for testing

CDC expects that U.S. federal law enforcement agencies will determine whether their employees’ travel meets the requirements of the exemption.  CDC recommends that employees travel with a copy of their travel orders and a signed letter (paper or electronic) from their agency stating that the employee’s travel meets the requirements of the exemption.

Are U.S. military personnel exempt from the testing requirement?

U.S. military personnel, civilian employees, dependents, contractors, and other U.S. government employees are exempt from the requirements of the CDC Order if they are traveling on official military travel orders and therefore already observing testing guidance in U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) COVID-19 prevention programs as set forth in Force Protection Guidance Supplement 20 – Department of Defense Guidance for Personnel Traveling During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic (April 12, 2021 or subsequent versions). This exemption applies to persons on official military orders on U.S. military flights (including whole aircraft contract charter operators) and non-U.S. military flights (e.g., commercial flights).

In addition, U.S. military personnel are exempt from the requirements of the testing requirement if they are traveling under official U.S. government travel orders, i.e., issued by other government agencies.

CDC expects that U.S. military services will determine what is considered “official military or U.S. government travel orders” that meet the requirements of this exemption.

CDC recommends that U.S. military personnel, civilian employees, dependents, contractors, and other U.S. government employees traveling under official military travel orders on non-military aircraft, such as commercial flights, carry their applicable travel orders with them to present to air carrier/operator personnel or public health authorities, if requested.

Civilian employees, U.S. military personnel dependents, contractors, and other U.S. government employees not traveling on military travel orders remain subject to the testing requirement. U.S. military personnel not traveling on official military travel orders or U.S. government travel orders also remain subject to CDC’s testing order.

Is there specific guidance operators of private flights or general aviation aircraft need to follow if they want to transport a person who has tested positive, or exposed contacts?

For transporting patients that have tested positive for COVID-19, operators must adhere to  CDC’s Interim Guidance for Transporting or Arranging Transportation by Air into, from, or within the United States of People with COVID-19 or COVID-19 Exposure.

Attestation

Why does the attestation have a section for Requirement Relating to Presidential Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic Proclamation?

To ease the burden for airlines and aircraft operators, CDC has provided a combined passenger disclosure and attestation that fulfills the requirements of two CDC Orders on one attestation form: Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test Result or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Airline Passengers Arriving into the United States and Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Will CDC release the attestation form in other languages besides English?

At this time, the attestation form is not available in other languages. CDC will release the attestation in Arabic, French, Russian, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.

Airlines and aircraft operators may also use a third party to provide translations of the attestation. However, the airline or aircraft operator is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of any translation. The airline or aircraft operator may not shift this responsibility to a third party.

Can airlines/aircraft operators use an attestation only in a foreign language (rather than an English translation), so that the only version retained for two years would be in a foreign language?

Yes, airlines/aircraft operators may use and retain an attestation only in a foreign language.

Do airlines and operators of private flights or general aviation aircraft need to keep copies of passenger test results or proof of vaccination?

No, passengers must show a copy of their test results and proof of vaccination, if applicable, to airline employees or the aircraft operator before boarding, but the airline or aircraft operator does not need to retain copies of test results or proof of vaccination.

What should airlines and operators of private flights or general aviation aircraft do with passenger attestations?

Operators of private flights and general aviation aircraft must maintain passenger attestations for two years, per the Orders.

Can CDC or airlines provide a simpler version?

At this time, there is no alternative form of the attestation. Airlines and aircraft operators must use the language in the current attestation without alteration.

Can air carriers and operators create digital versions of the attestation? If electronic forms are used, what constitutes ‘signing’?

Air carriers and operators must ensure that the attestation is submitted by each passenger or an authorized representative before the flight’s departure.

Digitization of the hard copy form is encouraged if air carriers and operators are able to incorporate a process by which an authenticated digital signature, or an electronic system that uses unique identifiers to ensure the person filling out the electronic attestation form is the passenger or an authorized representative. For example, similar methods to those used to verify the identity of a passenger using a pre-boarding kiosk or an air carrier’s or operator’s website or app to obtain a boarding pass could be used to ensure that the passenger or authorized representative is the individual completing the attestation.

Alternatively, the air carrier or operator can use authenticated digital signatures (e.g., DocuSign) or an electronic version of an attestation that ensures only the individual passenger, or their authorized representative, has access to the data entry process (e.g., after keying in username/password or other identifying and/or itinerary-specific information as part of the pre-boarding or check in process).

Either method is acceptable if the air carrier or operator can be reasonably certain that the individual, or their authorized representative, is the only person that has access to the data entry process required to submit the attestation, and digital version, is maintained for 2 years, and can be provided to the CDC upon request.