Airlines in the United States including American Airlines, Delta, Virgin, Jet Blue, Southwest, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, United Airlines Hawaiian Airlines and others may not be doing enough to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This is the urgent message to Steven Mnuchin, US Secretary of the Treasury. The Treasury is about to send $58 Billion Dollars, so airlines in the United States can operate through the ongoing deadly COVID-19 epidemic.
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org , and a member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee hand-delivered this urgent letter to the Secretary of Treasury, accusing airlines not to do enough to safely transport passengers and crew.
The letter says: RE: URGENT- ACTION NEEDED BY April 1st
Airline Compliance/Noncompliance with WH Coronavirus Task Force and CDC guidelines and recommendations to mitigate infections and deaths
Dear Secretary Mnuchin:
As you know the Coronavirus pandemic was spread globally mainly by air travel. Now this virus is in every country.
In the US the emphasis has shifted to minimizing communal infection including from domestic air travel.
As Secretary of the Treasury you have a special role and obligation to take the steps to minimize transmission by strictly following the guidelines issued by the CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. By tomorrow April 1st you must say how $58 billion is to be distributed to air carriers.
Accordingly, we call on you to require airlines and airports to comply with the following guidelines for the duration of the National Emergency:
1. Social Distancing. Separation of passengers by 6 to 10 feet on airliners and at airports.
2. Wearing of N-95 masks by flight attendants and for any sick passengers who develop symptoms in flight.
3. Testing of passengers and flight crews and other airline personnel in contact with the public for fever and the coronavirus prior to flying.
4. Facilitating quarantining of passengers exposed to or testing positive for the coronavirus per state governor or CBP orders.
5. Cleaning and sanitizing of cabin and other surfaces in contact with passengers.
6. Encouraging the public not to use air travel except essential purposes during the National Emergency.
7. Establish cleaning and ventilating standards for planes.
8. Waive any requirement for flight attendants over 60 years old to work on flights during the National Emergency.
We also demand that you require airlines desist from refusing to grant full refunds for passengers cancelling reservations, stop offering super low fares ($14 NYC to Florida, $50 to anywhere in US) and canceling flights to keep planes filled, all of which thwart social distancing and encourage nonessential air travel.
The federal government has sole jurisdiction over air travel, states and local government have none. But the DOT, whose officials we speak with regularly, view the guidelines as strictly voluntary and refuse to even encourage the airlines to follow them.
Turning over $50 billion of taxpayer money to airlines with not requirements that they abide by WH and CDC guidelines would be unconscionable and no doubt lead to millions of new infections and thousands of new deaths. It only takes one infected air traveler to infect whole populations.
FlyersRights.org is the largest airline passenger organization with 60,000 member/supporters and represents airline passengers on air safety and consumer issues before the FAA and the US DOT.bl
Public Citizen is a consumer advocacy organization with 500,000 members and supporters nationwide.