Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today sent a letter to the Departments of Transportation (DOT), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Homeland Security (DHS), urging these agencies to convene a joint task force on air travel during and after the coronavirus pandemic. This task force – advised by aviation, security, and public health experts – would develop recommended requirements, plans, and guidelines to address the health, safety, security, and logistical challenges for air travel moving forward.
“We were pleased when the Biden administration recently called for interagency cooperation to develop national public health recommendations for domestic travel,” write the lawmakers in their letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg, HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “However, we believe that a more structured process remains necessary — one that includes robust collaboration among government, industry, labor, and other experts, with the goals of solving the pressing problems created by the pandemic and charting a path forward as vaccinations accelerate and travel demand returns.”
During the ongoing emergency, airlines and airports have largely had to develop their own rules for ensuring coronavirus-related health and safety. Unfortunately, a patchwork of rules simply cannot address the interconnected and widespread risks of a global pandemic. The letter calls for the federal government to lead and promulgate clear and consistent safety standards that apply across the entire aviation industry.
A copy of the letter can be found HERE. The lawmakers’ letter specifically calls for a task force modeled after bipartisan legislation they recently reintroduced, and that passed the Senate unanimously last Congress. While the Senators will continue to fight for their legislation, the DOT, HHS, and DHS need not wait before acting on this initiative. These agencies can immediately convene a task force on aviation health and safety and begin the process of developing national solutions to protect the flying public.