Healthy Flights Act: Bill would create an aviation pandemic response plan
The new requirements would be incorporated into pre-flight announcements, in accordance with the legislation.
In a statement, DeFazio said The law project would provide “clear and consistent rules and guidelines that give flight crew and cabin crew the authority they need to keep passengers safe.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed serious shortcomings in the federal government’s preparedness to ensure the safety of airline and airport workers and travelers amid a public health emergency,” he said . “And with tens of millions of people yet to be vaccinated, Congress can and must do more to protect those on the front lines of our air system from future pandemics like COVID-19.”
DeFazio has also called on the Biden administration to extend a transport mask term that will expire next month.
During much of the coronavirus pandemic, the FAA resisted calls from lawmakers to require masks on planes and at airports, saying it viewed its role as the regulatory agency overseeing safety, not the health. The FAA’s reluctance to act meant airlines and airports had to establish their own mask policies. However, on his first day in office, President Biden signed an ordinance requiring masks on planes, buses and trains and at airports.
DeFazio and Larsen said a national plan is essential to ensure that the airline industry, federal health officials and other federal agencies are prepared for future outbreaks.
After reviewing the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak, the Government Accountability Office recommended in 2015 that such a plan be developed for the aviation sector. The Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accepted the recommendation, but no plan was created as the agencies could not agree on which of them should take the lead.
“Ensuring the safety of the traveling public and frontline aviation workers during the COVID-19 pandemic is even more difficult due to the lack of coordinated federal leadership,” Larsen said in a statement. “This bill includes common sense measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in air transportation, ensure the safety of passengers and aviation workers, and better prepare the U.S. aviation industry for public health crises. “
The measure also calls for further study of infectious disease transmission by aircraft and the establishment of an FAA Center of Excellence on Infectious Disease Response and Prevention in Aviation.
A study by researchers at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, often cited by airlines, found that the risk of contracting the coronavirus on an airplane may be lower than for activities such as eating at a restaurant. , in part because aircraft ventilation systems constantly circulate and cool cabin air, and through strategies that include wearing masks and intensified cleaning. The researchers say they came to their conclusions independently, although the work was funded by the aviation industry.
The bill is co-sponsored by 15 other Democratic lawmakers and has the support of several industry groups, including the Airport Council International, the Coalition of Air Line Pilots Associations (CAPA) and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
“Having a sensible, predictable and enforceable set of standards to protect the health safety of our passengers and flight crew will be a critical part of ensuring the recovery of the airline industry and restoring our passengers’ confidence in air travel,” said said Larry Rooney, president of CAPA. “We look forward to working with Presidents DeFazio and Larsen to ensure this legislation is enacted.”
DeFazio and Larsen introduced a similar measure last year.