Major U.S. Airlines Want Temperature Checks at Airports
Airlines for America, which represents several U.S. airlines, announced that its member carriers are supporting Transportation Security Administration plans to begin temperature checks for travelers and customer-facing employees as long as necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines for America members include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines and more.
The announcement on its 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 health officials have been in talks to start temperature checks at airports. A decision could potentially be made as early as next week, Reuters reports. It’s possible that a pilot project for temperature checks would be launched first at the largest U.S. airports. If successful, it would then go nation wide.
Does it Work?
One of the main issues with temperature checks is what happens when someone is turned away from a flight because of a temperature reading. 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. But it is not a very detailed explanation for cases where the airline and the passenger don’t agree on arrangements for example.
Additionally, there’s the question if temperature checks work. Temperature checks alone will not eliminate the risk of people carrying the virus from 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. And most people with COVID-19 don’t develop significant symptoms at all.
While just temperature screening alone will not stop the spread of the virus in airports and aircraft, it is an added layer of security besides things like mandatory face masks. It will keep some people carrying the virus from getting onboard.
I would say that it is a useful extra step to keep passengers safe. You just should not have a false sense of security because of this must continue to follow CDC guidance, including wearing face masks, frequent hand-washing and staying home when ill.