Federal officials on Thursday said that airlines should focus on selling limited seats on planes to encourage social distancing. But they are not considering making the airlines do it.
The officials are also recommending that travelers must wear a face mask in airports and on planes. However, all leading U.S. airlines are making it mandatory to wear a face mask. But regulators have refused a request by the airlines to make it a federal rule.
The Transportation, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services departments made a report of recommendations. This report contains guidelines for reducing the risk of spreading the new coronavirus by air travel.
Measure to be Taken
However, the agencies are saying that airlines and airports should take measures to increase social distancing. They should clean frequently surfaces touched by passengers. Moreover, they should inquire from passengers about their health so, any passenger who is ill is discouraged from traveling.
“This document provides clear guidance to airlines and airports to protect the traveling public, and we encourage people to pay attention to it,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
However, fourteen aviation and business organizations including the largest airline trade group, Airlines for America, said these guidelines will help the country negotiate an end to international travel bans.
Because of the increasing cases of coronavirus in the US, the European Union this week has banned American people from traveling to Europe.
However, it was necessary to provide guidelines and deal with the social distancing issue. American Airlines and United Airlines are trying to fill every seat on every flight.
The government’s top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were condemning the move.
“I think in the confines of an airplane that (lack of social distancing) becomes even more problematic,” Fauci said.
Airlines in action
However, airlines such as Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue are still leaving one third or more seats empty. So they can keep the distance between the passengers.
In their defense, American Airlines and United said social distancing is not possible on a plane. Even if middle seats are empty, passengers will still be less than six feet apart.
“What makes an airplane safe is all the cleaning that we’re doing … the fact that we require masks, and the fact we are re-filtering the air through HEPA-grade (high efficiency) air filters every two or three minutes,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement earlier this week.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday’s report is its latest guidance on the issue. And that it is not considering requiring that airlines limit capacity on flights.
The FAA has also denied the airline’s request to make mask-wearing a federal requirement. Airlines and their labor unions believe the FAA’s stamp would make passengers more likely to comply. However, the airlines are banning passengers for not wearing a mask. Moreover, in one incident the airline called the police to remove a violator from a plane.
However, the FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson has said it is a public-health matter best left to the CDC.
The airline industry also requested that the Transportation Security Administration screen passengers for fever one symptom of COVID-19. However, they said in the report that checking temperature alone is not reliable.
Because many people do not show symptoms of use medicine to reduce a fever.