Homeland Security, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Leaders Urge DOT & DHS Establish an Aviation Working Group to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic
(WASHINGTON) – Leaders of the Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to urge them to establish an interagency working group to develop robust, coordinated plans to address COVID-19 in aviation operations. The Members believe that establishing health, safety, and security standards are necessary to restore public confidence in travel. In the absence of coordinated Federal leadership, a patchwork of standards and requirements have emerged throughout the aviation sector to respond to COVID-19.
“We are all cognizant of the overwhelming effect this pandemic has had on the aviation industry,” the Members wrote. “Although passenger volume has dramatically decreased, frontline employees are still going to work and aircraft are still flying. Right now, some airports and airlines are requiring passengers to wear masks or face coverings, and some employers are requiring employee temperature checks. However, frontline workers and airline passengers, subject to varying requirements, continue to comingle in public areas, secure areas, and finally on aircraft. Inconsistency creates uncertainty and limits the effectiveness of the actions taken.”
The letter was signed by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen (D-WA), Homeland Security Committee Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chairman Lou Correa (D-CA), and Homeland Security Committee Border, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY).
The Members specify the working group should include the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection – while working in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and industry and labor stakeholders. In the letter, the Members lay out what the working group should focus on:
- Safe and secure air travel including planning for possible second wave and future pandemics
- Personal protective equipment for aviation workers
- Face mask requirements and social distancing
- Protocols for queuing and security screening
- Aircraft boarding and deplaning
- Airplane seating arrangements and in-flight services
- Baggage handling
- Privacy and civil liberty implications of passenger health screenings and health monitoring
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