US issues guidelines but no new rules for safe air travel

US issues guidelines but no new rules for safe air travel

US issues guidelines but no new rules for safe air travel

Federal officials said Thursday that airlines should consider limiting capacity on planes to promote social distancing, but they are not considering making the airlines do it.

The officials also recommended — but did not move to require — that travellers wear face coverings in airports and on planes. All leading U.S. airlines now require passengers to wear masks, 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 those and other recommendations in a report containing guidelines for reducing the risk of spreading the new coronavirus by air travel.

The agencies said airlines and airports should take steps to increase social distancing, clean surfaces touched by passengers, and ask passengers about their health to discourage people who may be ill from travelling.

“This document provides clear guidance to airlines and airports to protect the travelling public, and we encourage people to pay attention to it,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Fourteen aviation and business organizations including the largest airline trade group, Airlines for America, said the guidelines could help the United States negotiate an end to international travel bans. Because of the high COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S., the European Union this week excluded Americans from people who will be able to travel freely to most of Europe.

The issue of limiting capacity on planes gained new urgency this week when American Airlines joined United Airlines in trying to fill every seat on every flight. The move was criticized by the government’s top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I think in the confines of an airplane that (lack of social distancing) becomes even more problematic,” Fauci said.

Other airlines including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue say they are temporarily leaving one-third or more seats empty to create more space between passengers.

American and United defend their approach of fully booking flights by saying that social distancing is impossible 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 told The Associated Press earlier this week.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday’s report is its latest guidance on the issue, and that it is not considering airlines to limit capacity on flights.

The FAA has also resisted calls to make mask-wearing a federal requirement. Airlines and their labour unions believe the FAA’s stamp would make passengers more likely to comply. Airlines have banned some passengers for not wearing a mask, and in one case called the police to remove a violator from a plane.

FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson has said it is a public-health matter best left to the CDC.

The report was chilly toward an airline industry request that the Transportation Security Administration screen passengers for fever, one symptom of COVID-19. The report said temperature screening alone is unreliable because it doesn’t detect people who may be infected but don’t show symptoms or use medicine to reduce a fever.

___

David Koenig can be reached at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter

David Koenig, The Associated Press

Air Travel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

MLA Jackie Lovely
MLA Jackie Lovely: Moving back to Step 1 a ‘profound disappointment’

Camrose MLA joins ranks of UCP members calling out the decision

Supporters gather outside GraceLife Church near Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday, April 11, 2021. The church has been fenced off by police and Alberta Health Services in violation of COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

GraceLife Church and its pastor, are charged for holding services that break health restrictions

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

File photo
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Most Read