US DOT urged to issue mandatory COVID-19 airline safety standards

US DOT urged to issue mandatory COVID-19 airline safety standards

Consumer Reports is calling on US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to issue mandatory, enforceable health and safety standards for airlines and airports to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.  CR launched a petition urging Secretary Chao to take more aggressive action to protect passengers one week after the DOT issued COVID-19 health and safety recommendations without requiring airlines and airports to comply with them.

“Americans shouldn’t have to figure out on their own whether it’s safe to fly during a global pandemic,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser for Consumer Reports.  “Secretary Chao is essentially making passengers gamble with their health by failing to require airlines and airports to abide by mandatory safety protocols.  We need enforceable rules to protect travelers, especially now that some airlines are ignoring social distancing recommendations and packing flights with passengers.”

While some airlines are currently leaving middle seats open on flights, American, Spirit, and United airlines say they will book passengers on every seat on their planes.  Some airlines and airports are enforcing mask requirements, while others are not.  And some airports are doing health screenings without any clear rule on how that information will be acted on, raising both medical and privacy concerns. 

In June, Consumer Reports urged Secretary Chao to work with other key administration officials and take an active role in establishing requirements for airlines, airports, and travelers to protect against the transmission of COVID-19 during air travel.  Secretary Chao has the authority to make COVID-19 safety protocols mandatory using the same authority used by the DOT in the past to require airlines to adopt stronger security measures following the September 11th terrorist attacks. 

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