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Rep. McNerney and Colleagues Push Airlines to Adopt Uniform Health and Safety Policies Amid Pandemic

Aug 20, 2020
Press Release

Stockton, CA – As the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) led 30 of his colleagues in sending a letter to 11 U.S.-based airlines requesting information on the policies they are implementing to help prevent transmission of COVID-19. The letter further urges the airlines to work together to establish comprehensive industry-wide policies that ensure the health and safety of all passengers and employees.

"In a public health emergency, it is especially important that passengers have a clear understanding of policies. That becomes difficult when different airlines enact their own policies in response to the same problem. …[T]he airlines have created a patchwork of rules and protocols, which has resulted in confusion and health concerns. We fear that a lack of uniform policies may result in more lives lost,” the Members wrote.

The Members continued, "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to come forward with a mandatory policy regarding masks on planes, passengers sitting next to each other for extended periods of time, or other protective measures for passengers and employees. While the FAA has the authority to act on this issue, it appears that the agency is following President Trump’s lead and failing to take action during this time of crisis."

The Members requested that the airlines provide answers to the following questons within 14 days from the date of the letter:

  1. What is your mask or face covering policy for passengers and employees? Do you allow for exceptions? If so what, what qualifies as an exception to your policy?
  2. What is your policy on flight capacity and seating? Are certain seats or rows no longer being used in an effort to maximize social distancing?
  3. Are you conducting temperature checks for employees who are working on site? Are you conducting temperature checks for passengers before they board the aircraft?
  4. Are you conducting or providing COVID-19 testing for your employees? If so, what qualifies an employee to receive such testing? And what is the frequency of these tests (e.g., daily, weekly, only if showing symptoms)?
  5. What are your cleaning and sanitization protocols both before and after flights? Are there ever times when protocol is broken or adjusted in the interest of cost or keeping flights on schedule?
  6. What is your current policy regarding cancellations and refunds if a passenger cannot fly because they feel ill or have come into contact with an individual they suspect of having COVID-19? Is a full refund an option or is it returned to them as travel funds held by your airline?  
  7. In addition to the measures noted above, are you taking any other steps to ensure the health and safety of your passengers during the pandemic?
  8. What steps, if any, are you currently taking to work with other airlines to establish uniform policies in response to COVID-19?
  9. Will you commit to working with your counterparts to establish comprehensive industry-wide policies that address masks, social distancing, and other passenger and employee safety measures for the duration of the pandemic?

The letter was also signed by Representatives Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Peter Welch (VT-At large), Mark Takano (CA-41), Cindy Axne (IA-03), Judy Chu (CA-27), Lou Correa (CA-46), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Ro Khanna (CA-17) Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At large), Susan Davis (CA-53), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Juan Vargas (CA-51), TJ Cox (CA-21), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Bill Foster (IL-11), Ed Case (HI-01), André Carson (IN-07), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Jim Costa (CA-16), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Don Beyer (VA-08), Mike Levin (CA-49), and Jared Huffman (CA-02).

A full copy of the letter can be found here.

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Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.