Could US Passengers Have To Show COVID Status Before Flights?

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A US Senator has proposed a bill that would require passengers to prove their COVID-19 status before boarding a US domestic flight. The bill would require passengers to show proof of a recent negative test, full vaccination status, or evidence of recent recovery in order to fly.

A US Senator has proposed a bill that would force US domestic airline passengers to prove their COVID-19 status. Photo: Ontario International Airport

The proposed bill would complement rules in place for international travel

On Wednesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act. That bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to consult with the FAA to develop national vaccination standards and procedures relating to domestic air travel.

“Ensuring that air travelers protect themselves and their destination communities from this disease is critical to prevent the next surge, particularly if we confront new, more virulent variants of COVID-19,” Senator Feinstein said on Wednesday.

“This bill complements similar travel requirements already in place for all air passengers, including Americans, who fly to the United States from foreign countries.

“It only makes sense that we also ensure the millions of airline passengers that crisscross our country aren’t contributing to further transmission, especially as young children remain ineligible to be vaccinated.”

US Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed the bill on Wednesday. Photo: US Government

The research supports Senator Feinstein’s proposed bill

Research indicates people traveling to other counties or states in 2020 contributed to higher COVID-19 case numbers in their destination communities. This was especially true during the 2020 summer and winter holidays.

The research found that COVID-19 testing requirements for airline passengers could have a meaningful effect on detecting active infections immediately before or after a flight.

In a clinical survey, about three in 10 people waiting to be vaccinated said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if airlines required it.

“The Infectious Diseases Society of America supports Senator Feinstein’s legislation to require vaccination for domestic air travel as part of our nation’s broader COVID-19 vaccination strategy,” said professor of medicine and pathology at Duke University and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Dr Barbara Alexander.

Passengers on international flights generally have to prove their COVID-19 status before boarding. Photo: Cathay Pacific

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Will US airlines get onboard?

US airlines have begun mandating their employees get vaccinated. Several airlines around the world will only fly fully vaccinated passengers on their international networks, but the practice of checking a domestic passenger’s COVID status remains uncommon.

Airlines have previously argued doing so is time-consuming, expensive, and potentially exposes their frontline workers to abuse from passengers. Airlines would likely push for a government agency to manage, run, and pay for any such checks.

But agencies such as the FAA are more inclined than ever to ask airlines to manage their passengers from airport to airport, even if doing so is at a cost to the airline. The FAA’s request recent to the airline industry to do more to combat unruly passenger behavior is an example.

Last week, the Biden administration announced it would work with airlines to implement additional protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on international flights, replacing a patchwork of travel bans and rules.

Senator Feinstein says her bill expands on a current CDC requirement that all air passengers traveling to the United States from another country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, saying;

“We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge. We simply cannot allow that to happen again.”

Do you agree with Senator Feinstein’s proposed bill? Should passengers have to prove their COVID-19 status before boarding a US domestic flight? Post a comment and let us know.


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