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Consumer Reports calls on DOT Secretary Chao to make COVID-19 safety standards mandatory for airlines

DOT’s recommendations aren’t enough to protect passengers during global pandemic 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New COVID-19 safety recommendations for airlines and airports issued today by the Department of Transportation are inadequate, Consumer Reports said.  The DOT issued guidelines to address passenger safety concerns during the pandemic, but the agency provides too much leeway to airlines and airports and should be using its authority to require industry to comply with them, according to the consumer group.

“Americans are rightfully concerned that they may be putting their health and safety at risk if they choose to fly during a global pandemic” said William J. McGee, Aviation Advisor for Consumer Reports.   “The DOT shouldn’t leave it up to the airlines and airports to decide which COVID-19 safety precautions they will follow to keep passengers safe.  These guidelines are a first step, but not enough.  Secretary Chao should make any health standards mandatory to ensure passengers are protected when they travel during this unprecedented crisis.”

Consumer Reports noted that Secretary Chao has the authority to make the COVID-19 safety precautions mandatory using the same authority that past Transportation Secretaries used when requiring airlines to adopt stronger security measures following the September 11th terrorist attacks, and when requiring airlines to include all fees in advertised fares.

In June, Consumer Reports called on Secretary Chao to work with other key administration officials and take an active role in establishing requirements for airlines, airports, and travelers to protect against the transmission of COVID-19 during air travel, including:

  • How and whether to screen passengers and employees for COVID-19 before travel
  • Appropriate social distancing in airports and airplane cabins
  • Use of face masks and other personal protective equipment for passengers and employees
  • Appropriate airport and airline cleaning procedures
  • Effectiveness of airplane cabin air circulation systems

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537