Temperature Checks for Passengers at Airports
Airlines for America, which represents leading U.S. airlines, announced that its member carriers are supporting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to begin checking the temperature of the traveling public and customer-facing employees as long as necessary during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Airlines for America members include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
The announcement on the organization’s website says that “temperature checks will add an extra layer of protection for passengers as well as airline and airport employees. Temperature checks also will provide additional public confidence that is critical to relaunching air travel and our nation’s economy. As all screening processes for the traveling public are the responsibility of the U.S. government, having temperature checks performed by the TSA will ensure that procedures are standardized, providing consistency across airports so that travelers can plan appropriately.”
TSA and other government officials are considering plans to start temperature checks at airports. The issue is the subject of extensive talks among government agencies with U.S. airlines and a decision could potentially be made as early as next week, Reuters reports. Its possible that a pilot project for temperature checks would be launched first at the largest U.S. airports.
Frontier Airlines is the first carrier to announce that it will start temperature checks on its own. The airline said that from June 1, it will require all passengers and employees to have their temperatures checked before boarding flights.
One of the main issues about temperature checks is what the government or airlines would do if someone had a high temperature and was turned away from a flight. Frontier for example said it will work with passengers that are turned away because of temperature readings. They will be rebooked to travel on a later date or the airline will work with them to find different accommodations. There’s not many specifics on what will really happen when the airline and the passenger don’t agree on arrangements.
Additionally temperature checks would not eliminate the risk of people carrying the virus form getting on a flight. Symptoms could appear anywhere between 2 days and 14 days after exposure, so just because someone doesn’t have a fever, doesn’t guarantee they don’t have the virus. Plus many people with COVID-19 don’t develop significant symptoms at all. An estimation from the American Society for Clinical Pathology says that there are between 100 and 1,000 asymptomatic cases for every one symptomatic case of COVID-19.
Temperature screening alone not an effective way to stop the spread of the virus. But when it is an added layer to the other measures taken by airlines, such as mandatory face masks, it should provide additional protection.
So is it a good thing to add temperature checks? I would say yes, as long as it doesn’t give passenger a false sense of security and they continue to follow CDC guidance, including wearing face masks, frequent hand-washing and staying home when ill. Let me know what you think.