Bipartisan bill moves to House of Representatives, will convene aviation, security, and public health experts to develop comprehensive plans to protect the flying public during and after coronavirus pandemic
Washington (October 1, 2020) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today released the following statements after the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act passed the United States Senate by unanimous consent.
In May, Senators Markey and Blumenthal introduced the original version of this legislation, which instructs the Departments of Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to establish a joint task force on air travel during and after the coronavirus pandemic. This task force – advised by aviation, security and public health experts – will develop recommended requirements, plans, and guidelines to address the health, safety, security, and logistical challenges for air travel moving forward. After introduction, Senators Markey and Blumenthal worked with Chairman Wicker to revise this bill and ensure that the Senate Commerce Committee approved it on a bipartisan, unanimous basis.
“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 a ‘new normal’ after the coronavirus subsides. We must think big and provide consistent answers to all of the questions regarding masks on flights, social distancing in security screening, sanitation of aircraft, and more. I applaud my colleagues in the Senate for passing our legislation, and I urge the House to take up this bill immediately.”
“Unanimous bipartisan Senate passage of this important legislation is a welcome first step toward rebuilding consumer confidence in air travel,” said Senator Blumenthal. “A task force created by our bill will tackle the unprecedented aviation challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This measure should provide a path to restoring consumer trust in air travel with sensible rules for health safety. Cleaning the air— inside airplanes— is clearly essential to put planes back in the skies. I am fighting for swift House passage.”
“The aviation industry has suffered severe impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, and travelers need confidence before returning to the skies,” said Chairman Wicker. “A government task force and advisory committee comprised of expert advisors would work to address these challenges and ensure necessary safety and health policies are in place to protect workers and the flying public during and after the pandemic. I thank Senator Markey and Senator Blumenthal for their work on this critical issue.”
“This bill has broad support because it codifies what had been typical government action in the face of any threat,” said Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 19 airlines. “The Air Travel Task Force will 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 build a plan to recover once the virus is contained. Aviation safety is grounded in the principle that ‘we’re all in this together.’ Without clear direction and action from the federal government, airlines and airports have put in place a patchwork of COVID-19 safety measures. We need well-planned, consistent procedures that everyone can follow for one level of safety. Thank you to Senators Markey and Blumenthal and the Senate for addressing this critical need.”
“The Massachusetts Port Authority is grateful for Senator Markey’s efforts in the passage of the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act of 2020,” said Lisa Wieland, CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority. “Creating a task force to develop guidelines and recommendations for air travel will help create consistent standards across U.S. airports, and ultimately will protect the health and safety of our passengers and airport employees.”
“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 COVID-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.”
“Aviation has been one of the most hard-hit industries in the COVID-19 crisis,” said Julie Hedrick, National President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing 27,000 Flight Attendants at American Airlines. “We can and must ensure that we are better prepared for any ‘next time.’ Industry-standard safety policies are necessary to combat this pandemic safely and effectively, and we know that this task force is a step in the right direction. The leadership of Senator Markey and Senator Blumenthal, along with Chairman Wicker, were essential in getting this bill passed through the Senate.”
“Airports across the country appreciate the Senate coming together in a bipartisan fashion to approve this important bill to establish a task force to examine health, safety, and security measures for air travel,” said Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO of Airports Council International – North America. “We thank Senators Markey and Blumenthal for spearheading this effort, which has been key among ACI-NA’s aviation recovery initiatives. Airports continue to work diligently to provide for the health and safety of the traveling public and airport workers. As we look to the future of air travel and prepare for the return of more travelers, a task force of federal agencies and aviation industry partners will be very helpful in developing meaningful guidelines and recommendations to address the challenging operational and infrastructure issues related to COVID-19 recovery and pandemic planning.”
“AMFA strongly supports the passage of the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act of 2020 as a necessary step forward in supporting an aviation industry greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bret Oestreich, National Director of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA). “We thank Senators Markey, Blumenthal, and Wicker for their leadership and steadfast pursuit of safety for both the flying public and the men and women who comprise the aviation industry. Bringing together aviation experts, including the aircraft mechanic labor voice, ensures the task force created by this legislation will be diverse and well rounded. We commend the Senate for passing this important legislation and ask the House to follow suit.”