Aviation

Several Democrats call on FAA, CDC to mandate vaccines, negative tests for air travel

Associated Press/Steven Senne

Four Democratic lawmakers on Monday urged federal agencies to require airline passengers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to board domestic flights.

In a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson, lawmakers wrote that the measure “would improve public health and address concerns that passengers have about flying.”

“Ensuring the health and safety of air travelers and their destination communities is critical to mitigating the ongoing COVID-19 surge, especially as the virus continues to evolve,” read the letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Reps. Eric Swalwell (Calif.), Don Beyer (Va.) and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.). 

The lawmakers noted that airlines have shown the ability to implement vaccine and testing requirements that apply to international travelers arriving in the U.S. 

Thirty-six Democratic lawmakers asked the White House to implement the requirement in a separate letter sent last month. The latest push comes as the omicron variant drives an explosion of new COVID-19 cases and public health experts warn that holiday travel will only worsen the surge. 

“On a flight now to Bay Area and it is one-hundred percent batty that the unvaccinated are allowed to fly,” Swalwell tweeted Monday. “It’s unsafe in the cabin and we are transporting the virus. Requiring the vaccine to fly is the LEAST we can do to stop the spread.”

President Biden has indicated that he is open to a vaccine-or-test mandate for domestic air travel, but he said last month that he would wait for the scientific community to recommend implementing the requirement.

The move would likely draw opposition from airlines, which have resisted new air travel restrictions and stressed that airplanes’ filtration systems help prevent COVID-19 from spreading throughout the cabin. 

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly on Wednesday told senators that the federal mask requirement for air travel may no longer be needed. 

“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much if anything in the air cabin environment,” Kelly said. “It’s very safe, very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”

Tags Airlines COVID-19 Dianne Feinstein Eric Swalwell Joe Biden mandate omicron Rochelle Walensky Vaccine

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