New bill would instruct HHS, DHS, and DOT to convene a joint task force on the operation of air travel during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
Washington (May 5, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today announced the Restoring Safety in the Skies Act of 2020. The legislation instructs the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Transportation to establish a joint task force responsible for developing plans, guidelines, and recommend requirements to address the logistical, health, safety, and security issues arising from continued air travel during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the resumption of full operations at airports and increased passenger air travel after the current emergency ends.
“The coronavirus has had an enormous impact on every person and industry in the United States, but air travel has been uniquely affected by the current pandemic,” said Senator Markey. “That’s why experts across all of the relevant agencies and groups must come together to address the immediate challenges to safety in our skies, as well as start planning for the ‘new normal’ after the coronavirus subsides. My legislation will task airports, airlines, aviation workers, public health experts, and many others to develop comprehensive plans for protecting the safety and security of the flying public. We must be smart and think big as we tackle these unprecedented challenges.”
“The Air Travel Task Force created by this legislation will tackle head-on the unprecedented aviation challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Formed by a broad field of specialists including aviation workers, public health experts, and airports, the task force will help ensure the immediate safety and health of our flying public and workers. As we look beyond this crisis, the recommendations, plans, and guidelines of the task force will chart a clear path to resuming safe, responsible operations and travel.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
The Restoring Safety in the Skies Act would specifically convene representatives from: the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, airport operators, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, labor unions representing aviation workers, public health experts, consumer and passenger rights organizations, privacy and civil liberty organizations, and the manufacturers of passenger screening technologies.
As soon as practicable, this task force would be required to provide emergency plans, guidelines, and recommend requirements necessary to ensure safe air travel before the COVID-19 pandemic ends and during the immediate period after the disease subsides. Within six months, the task force would be required to submit a final report detailing all of its recommendations for safe and secure air travel in light of the longer-term and permanent effects of the coronavirus.
“We appreciate the efforts by Senator Markey to create a task force with industry guidelines and recommendations for air travel,” said Lisa Wieland, CEO, Massachusetts Port Authority. “All airports will need to adjust operations to protect the health of passengers and airport employees. Consistency among U.S. airports will be essential to rebuild the public’s confidence. We look forward to working with the task force on these important issues.”
“Airports all around the country are working hard during this time of national emergency to protect the health and safety of the traveling public and airport workers both now and as they prepare for the return of more travelers,” said Kevin M. Burke, President & CEO, Airports Council International – North America. “As we look to the future of air travel, we greatly appreciate Senators Markey and Blumenthal taking the lead in proposing a task force of federal agency and aviation industry partners to prepare meaningful guidelines and recommendations about the challenging operational and infrastructure issues related to pandemic planning and recovering from COVID-19.”
“There is a real need for a coordinated federal response to address this health and financial crisis,” said Sara Nelson, President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “The Air Travel Task Force would go far to address immediate health and safety issues for passengers and workers during the pandemic, like requiring all passengers and frontline workers in aviation to wear masks, and building a plan to recover once the virus is contained. Without clear direction and action from the federal government, aviation will be slow to recover. Thank you Senators Markey and Blumenthal for addressing this critical need.”
“We applaud Senators Markey and Blumenthal for their leadership to ensure we have a coordinated, government – industry approach to protecting the health and safety of passengers and crews in this time of a global pandemic,” said Captain Joe DePete, President of the Air Line Pilots Association, International. “Airline pilots are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, transporting health care workers and critical medical supplies – and we will be on the frontlines of helping our industry recover financially from this crisis. However, the first step to ensuring an economic turnaround is to have uniform, mandatory guidelines for airlines to follow when it comes to airplane cleaning and disinfecting, employee notification of exposure to COVOD-19 and the use of masks for passengers and crew. Hoping for voluntary compliance with these public health standards will not cut it because hope is not a strategy – nor does it offer an appropriate flight path for recovery.”
“While we are encouraged to see that the airlines have implemented some new safety policies in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, we believe that crewmembers and the flying public would be best served by uniform federal requirements that are standard across the aviation industry,” said Julie Hedrick, National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing 27,000+ Flight Attendants at American Airlines. “Senator Markey and Senator Blumenthal understand the importance of bringing our regulatory agencies, public health experts, and aviation stakeholders together in a national task force. Coordination is needed to develop science-based safety procedures to limit the transmission of COVID-19 and ensure safety and consistency across the country. Safety recommendations need to be federally mandated. We hope that this task force can convene immediately and quickly to ensure our safety to the fullest extent possible.”