United Airlines has reported a surge in international travel searches following a change in US policy that lifted the requirement for international air travellers to submit proof of a negative Covid-19 test to enter the country.
Since the change was announced on Friday, United las logged “more than 2.4mn searches for international travel, a 7 per cent increase from the week prior,” the Chicago-based carrier said.
Roughly 1.5mn of the queries were for international travel from the US, up 7.6 per cent, with the remainder for travel to the US.
Most searches were from US travellers seeking near-term summer bookings to Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Politicians and business leaders, including the chief executives of the largest US airlines, had been imploring the Biden administration to lift the testing requirement, arguing that international travellers are necessary for a complete recovery from the pandemic.
The Biden administration has warned that the requirement could be reimposed should the US see a significant rise in cases or a new fast-spreading variant.
The rule change will have the greatest impact on the US’s three largest carriers, American Airlines, United, and Delta Air Lines, which have the greatest amount of international exposure. United earned 37 per cent of its revenue from international travel in 2019, the most of any US airline, according to analysts at Raymond James.
Overseas visitation numbers have remained below 2021 levels, said Morning Consult analyst Lindsey Roeschke. “Testing requirements have factored into these numbers: 39 per cent of Americans say testing requirements make them less willing to travel internationally.”