Updated January 16, 2022
1. Do I need a COVID-19 test to travel?
That depends on your destination and your vaccination status. A test is not currently required for domestic travel within the United States. Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for international destinations are here. International travelers are required to have a test before returning to the U.S.
2. Do I need a COVID-19 test to go through the airport?
No, a COVID-19 test is not required to go through the airport.
3. Can I get at COVID test at the airport?
Yes, COVID-19 tests are available in the terminal at Tucson International Airport (TUS). You can choose either a free viral or PCR test with results in 24-48 hours or a $79 rapid antigen test with results available within an hour. You can also choose to take both tests for $79. An appointment is required and can be made here. Added: The Testing Center is on the lower level in baggage claim near carousels 4 (Alaska Airlines) and 5 (Southwest Airlines). It is open 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
The Pima County Health Department has information about other testing sites in the Tucson area here.
The tests at TUS are being offered through a partnership with the Pima County Health Department, the Arizona Department of Health Services and Paradigm Laboratories.
4. What are the requirements for international travel coming to the United States?
As of December 6, 2021, all travelers ages 2 and older flying in to the United States, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, must show documentation of a negative result from a viral or PCR COVID-19 test taken within one day of the departure of their international flight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says exemptions to these requirements will be considered on a extremely limited basis, explained here, and has more general information about the requirements here.
5. What happened to the international travel rules that started in November?
They still apply, only the timing requirement for a test has changed. Non-U.S. citizens ages 18 and older traveling on non-immigrant visas can travel to the United States provided they can show proof of being fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. These include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Covishield. Travelers under the age of 18 are not required to be vaccinated and passengers under the age of 2 are exempt from both the vaccination and test requirement. Unvaccinated U.S. residents of any age may also travel with proof of a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within a day of departure.
6. I have not been vaccinated yet, can I travel?
That depends on your destination so you should check for local requirements there.
7. Can I get a vaccination at the airport?
Yes. The walk-in vaccination clinic – no appointments – is open to adults and children ages 5 and older. Hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. It is located behind baggage carousel 7 (United Airlines) on the lower level. The Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are usually available. Anyone wanting a second dose or a booster should bring their vaccination card.
8. I'm flying to Tucson and then driving into Mexico, do the latest rules change anything at the border for me?
Not really. Mexico allows cross-border travel from the United States. The requirement for a COVID test does not apply to land border crossings coming in to the U.S. As always, returning U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents must present a passport, passport card, SENTRI or other trusted traveler identification at the border. Going in to Mexico you will still be required to stop at the 21 kilometer Mexico Customs station to obtain a Tourist Card by showing your passport and completing the FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple or Multiple Immigration Form). You can save time by completing the FMM form online here.
9. What should I know about booking a flight?
If you find a flight at a fare you feel is reasonable, book it. Airline schedules have been reduced in early 2022 due to crew shortages and some flights are selling out quickly. Expect that fares for many destinations will be higher than you have seen them in a while. Remember, too, airlines have eliminated change fees on all but their lowest-priced basic economy fares so in many cases you will be able to change your ticket later. (More about that in the answer to question 10 below.)
10. I'm worried about booking a flight, what if something happens to me?
If there has been a consumer benefit that has come over the past year it is that Alaska, American, Delta and United airlines have permanently ended change fees on all but their lowest priced basic economy fare tickets. Southwest airlines does not charge change fees. Ultra-low fare airlines Frontier and Sun Country are keeping their regular change-fee policies. In all cases, passengers pay the difference if the fare for the new flight is higher than the original fare.
For specifics click the link for your airline:
11. I have an airline credit from 2020, how do I use it?
You should be able to go online and use the credit to make a new reservation. Review the confirmation you received from your airline for specific information such as your ticket number and the date of the original purchase or the date the credit was issued. Once you have that information, click on your airline’s name below for a link to begin making a new reservation. If you did not buy your ticket directly from an airline at TUS, contact the airline or service where you purchased the original ticket.
Delta Air Lines
Frontier Airlines – book your new flight and select “Frontier Credit” on the payments page to apply your credit
Southwest Airlines – book a flight as you would normally do (search by dollars, not points) and select Travel Funds on the payment screen to apply your credit
Sun Country Airlines
If you require additional help, phone numbers and email contact information for the airlines at TUS are here.
12. I've been vaccinated and the CDC says I can go without a face mask, do I still need to wear one at the airport?
Yes, the federal order to wear a face mask at airports and on airline flights is still in effect for all persons ages 2 and older and has been extended through March 18, 2022.
13. But the CDC says I don't have to wear a mask everywhere at the airport, correct?
Yes, according to guidance updated June 10, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says face masks no longer need to be worn in outdoor settings at airports but are still required in indoor settings, such as in the terminal and on shuttles. Technically, the original federal requirement has not been changed and the CDC says until it can amend the order “it will exercise its enforcement discretion to not require wearing a mask in outdoor areas.” (Read the June 10 guidance here.)
14. What should I do if I have a flight in the next 24 hours?
Generally, do as you always would have done. Check-in for your flight remotely if you can and have your boarding passes either on your mobile device or printed when you arrive at the airport. (It is still possible to check-in at the airport, if necessary.) Bring and wear a face mask in the terminal and on your flights to comply with the federal mandate. You can check current status of today’s flights at TUS here.
15. Is TSA doing anything differently at the security checkpoints?
Yes, there are several changes. Among them, an individual can temporarily carry-on one larger liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces and food items in clear plastic bags. These items must be removed from your carry-on bag and screened separately. More about TSA changes on the TUS Security page here.
16. Should I arrive at the airport earlier than normal for my flight?
No, that hasn’t been necessary in most cases. Barring unforeseen circumstances or special requirements, arriving at TUS 90 minutes ahead of departure time should still be good.
17. I cannot wear a face mask, how do I get an exemption?
Reach out to your airline well in advance of your flight as documentation may need to be submitted several days before flight time and you may be required to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test. The federal mandate has a narrow exception for persons who cannot wear a mask for reasons related to a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If approved, proper documentation must be brought to the airport for travel. The requirement to wear a compliant face covering applies to all passengers ages 2 and older at all airports and on all airlines in the United States.
18. What would be a "non-compliant" face mask?
Non-compliant face coverings include scarves, balaclavas, bandannas, neck gaiters, turtlenecks or other collars pulled up over the nose and mouth, masks made of materials with holes large enough to let light shine through such as mesh or lace and any mask with an exhalation valve or that has punctures. Face shields can be worn as an addition to a compliant face mask. Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel may be used to facilitate communication with people who need to see a speaker’s mouth to understand speech.
19. How long are face masks going to be required when flying?
The federal mandate requiring face masks to be worn in airports and on airlines has been extended through March 18, 2022.
20. I lost my vaccination card, can I get a replacement?
Yes. If you received your vaccination through a pharmacy such as CVS Health, Fry’s or Walgreens, return to the location where you received your most recent dose and they should be able to print a new card from their electronic records. State health agencies also track vaccinations through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Immunization Information Systems. To get a replacement card in Arizona, complete the form here and return it to ASIISHelpDesk@azdhs.gov. More information is at Arizona State Immunization Information System or call (602) 364-3899.
21. What is a health passport and do I need one to travel?
Health or vaccine passports are digital apps that allow users to upload their authenticated vaccination and other health information to one place on their smartphone. For travel they are supposed to help expedite the airline check-in process and are mainly being used for international travel. The apps are free to download and while they can be helpful, they are not required for travel. It’s also important to know they cannot be used as substitutes for actual documentation so passengers still must carry passports and other documents such as their vaccination card or a COVID-10 test result. So far consumer reviews have been mixed about their functionality for travel.
At TUS, Alaska and American airlines are using an app called VeriFly, Delta has developed a digital platform called FlyReady and United Airlines is using one called CommonPass. Globally, about 50 member airlines of the International Air Transport Association are testing the IATA Travel Pass.