News & Opinion | January 2, 2021 5:09 pm

Are Airlines Doing Enough to Screen Passengers With COVID-19?

Can flying during the pandemic be made safer?

Plane interior
The pandemic has made air travel more complicated.
JC Gellidon/Unsplash

Since the start of the pandemics, airlines have implemented (and ratcheted up) measures to guard against transmission of the coronavirus. This includes mask mandates on flights (albeit with breaks for cabin service, in some cases) and — depending on the airline — temperature checks. It’s another layer of precautions, and while these measures have certainly been helpful, it also begs the question of whether there’s even more that could be done.

A new Los Angeles Times report by Hugo Martín offers a worrying portrait of the issues at hand when it comes to COVID-19 protection on airplanes. Martín’s article opens with an unsettling account: that of Isaias Hernandez, who died on a flight last month as a result of COVID-19 after filling out a checklist stating that he was feeling well and showed no signs of the virus.

According to the report, neither the Center for Disease Control, the US Department of Transpiration or the Federal Aviation Administration has been keeping track of instances of COVID-19 on airplanes. In many cases, the job of looking for symptomatic travelers is left to flight attendants, who may not have the time or the training to monitor hundreds of passengers.

A number of groups, including flight attendant unions and passenger advocates, have called for standardized safety procedures and greater involvement from the Department of Transportation. The whole article is both comprehensive and alarming; for all of the steps taken to make air travel safer, there’s a lot more that could be done.

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