Every week, over a thousand Valley passengers are estimated to travel directly from Fresno Yosemite International Airport to Mexico via Aeromexico and Volaris airlines.
Starting Tuesday, they’ll need to prove they don’t have COVID-19 before they are able to return home to the United States. The change comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the testing requirement to all international flights.
“I am worried about it,” said Monica Garcia, who has a trip to Mexico planned this weekend. “People are going to think twice about going. You might as well stay (in the U.S.) and wait until the pandemic is over,” she said.
Garcia was at the Mexican Consulate in Fresno, one of several people in line for services. Head Consul Adriana González Carrillo said she and her staff have been busy trying to educate those who visit the consulate about the new travel requirement.
“It is a possibility that people are not aware of this measure,” she said. “That can cause problems for them to taking a flight that day.”
“We’ve already gotten notified by Volaris, that they are in the process of instituting that procedure (COVID-19 testing) back in Mexico.” – Kevin Meikle, aviation director at Fresno Yosemite International Airport
Potentially More Than 1,600 Mexico-Bound Travelers Each Week
Aeromexico offers flights to Guadalajara five days a week. Meanwhile Volaris offers daily flights to Guadalajara and to several destinations, including Mexico City, Leon and Morelia several days a week. Both fly aircraft capable of accommodating between 160 to 180 passengers on each departure.
At full capacity, the two airlines would be flying more than 1,600 passengers to Mexico every week. As with most travelers, the majority will return to Fresno within a short period of time.
Most U.S. airlines, including Delta, United and American, also fly passengers from Fresno to Mexico and other international destinations. The same testing rules apply to travelers using those airlines, as well.
According to the regulations, all U.S.-bound passengers must get a viral test (a test for current infection) within three days before their flight from . Only children under 2-years-old are exempt from the requirement. PCR and antigen tests (rapid) both qualify.
In addition to the test, passengers must complete a form confirming the authenticity of the test result.
Carillo says the local consulate is prepared to assist those that run into issues trying to come back to Fresno.
Travelers are Cancelling Trips
Some travel agents are seeing trip cancellations to Mexico ahead of Tuesday’s new rule.
“People do not want to take that chance,” says Hope Smith, a California-based travel adviser and owner of the Virtuoso agency Born To Travel. She says while it is easy to get a test in Mexico, and hotels are as accommodating as possible, the risk is too much for some people to bear.
“When you’re a family or you’re somebody that has to get back to work, yeah, of course you’re going to cancel,” says Smith.
GV Wire℠ found people in line at the Fresno Consulate of Mexico Friday morning that were both concerned and just learning of the new rule.
“I think it’s going to hurt the people that do have COVID and want to come back,” said Raquel Marquez, who is heading to Mexico after her father’s death. “Of course it’s going to affect them. They’re going to have to stay over there.”
Airlines Prepared to Implement Testing Rule
Volaris and Aeromexico say they are prepared for the new procedures for travelers returning from Mexico.
“We’ve already gotten notified by Volaris, that they are in the process of instituting that procedure (COVID-19 testing) back in Mexico,” said Kevin Meikle, aviation director at Fresno Yosemite International Airport Thursday morning. “(This will) ensure that those coming in do have that negative test and they do have the proper paperwork in order.”
But anyone hoping that the airlines will take care of testing for their passengers need to think again. Each traveler is responsible for meeting the new requirement on their own, using an authorized testing laboratory of their choice.
For people thinking they’ll try to get around this by driving to and from Mexico, think again. The Department of Homeland Security announced via tweet that the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have agreed to keep the borders closed to non-essential travel through Feb. 21 as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.
In order to continue to prevent the spread of #COVID, the US, Mexico, Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Feb. 21. We are working closely with Mexico & Canada to keep essential trade & travel open while also protecting our citizens from the virus.
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) January 12, 2021
What is a Verifiable Test Result?
The CDC says test results must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy) of a laboratory test. Testing must be performed using a viral test (NAAT or antigen), and negative results must be presented to the airline prior to boarding.
According to Mexico News Daily, there are some Mexico City laboratories, mostly private, that offer international travelers test results quickly, in some cases as soon as 24 hours.
The costs range from 950 to 4,000 pesos ($47-$200), and results are available in 24 to 72 hours.
Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.
Safety Measures at FYI
Airlines are being proactive about keeping their passengers safe by requiring masks on all flights, according to the airport’s website.
100+ clear acrylic shields have been installed throughout airport counters to protect travelers and staff.
All airport employees are required to wear masks. In addition, staff is asking passengers and guests to wear masks to protect themselves and the health of others.
TSA allows disinfectant wipes and containers with up to 12 oz. of hand sanitizer through screenings.