FAA chief: Coronavirus risk 'no higher' on planes

FAA chief: Coronavirus risk 'no higher' on planes
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The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sought to reassure lawmakers Wednesday that there is no elevated risk of contracting coronavirus on a commercial flight.

Steve Dickson testified before the House Appropriations Committee about the FAA’s proposed 2021 budget, but much of the questioning from lawmakers was focused on the Trump administration’s response to the virus, which the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared a pandemic.

Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceNational service will give thousands of Americans a chance to recover and rebuild their communities Members of House GOP leadership self-quarantining after first lawmakers test positive FAA chief: Coronavirus risk 'no higher' on planes MORE (D-N.C.) pressed Dickson on what the FAA is doing to decrease the danger of breathing recirculated air on planes. Dickson disputed that characterization.

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“The air quality within commercial aircraft is on par with what we see in public buildings and within homes,” Dickson said. “The risk to the public is no higher than it would be any area where you have folks gathered.”

His remarks came the same day as news of a government-funded study that indicated the coronavirus can survive in the air for several hours.

“All the air carriers have reviewed their cleaning protocols and the substances they are using, both on the flight deck and back in the passenger cabin,” Dickson said. “The CDC has updated them within the last week and we have provided that information to air carriers.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding large crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.

The FAA has been involved in the response to the virus from the very beginning, Dickson said.

“We have been helping to put processes in place on passenger screening and contact tracing when that is warranted and supporting the CDC’s efforts,” he told lawmakers.

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Some airlines, like JetBlue, are offering free cancellations for passengers concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.

But the virus is taking a financial toll on the industry as well.

Other major airlines like Delta Air Lines and American Airlines announced Tuesday that they would be cutting international flights by 10 percent due to the outbreak.