Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org, in an open letter, is calling on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to force airlines to adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other healthy and safety guidelines.
Hudson notes a recent press release by IATA that requested government assistance in terms of passenger "confidence-boosting measures in the face of an anticipated slow recovery in demand for air travel." IATA, he says, emphasized the need for financial relief to airlines and details instances where governments have provided cash payments, loans and other financial relief to airlines.
“However, IATA's call is lacking details on a key measure that will actually boost the confidence of airline passengers,” Hudson says. “This is an area where governments have already acted but in which airlines are the ones who have failed: prioritizing the health and safety of passengers and communities.”
IATA and ICAO, he says, must immediately publish best practices for airlines to protect public health and must call on member airlines to implement these life-saving measures immediately.
FlyersRights.org recommends the following measures be required of all member airlines:
- Social distancing of six to 10 feet on airlines and in airports
- The wearing of N-95 masks by flight attendants and all passengers
- Temperature testing of passengers, flight crews and other airline personnel in contact with the public
- Cleaning and sanitizing of the cabin and other surfaces in contact with passengers
- Encouraging the public to not use air travel except for essential purposes
It should be noted, however, that the CDC does not recommend that the public wear N-95 masks. "The recommendations are intended for use by professionals who manage respiratory protection programs in healthcare institutions to protect health care workers from job-related risks of exposure to infectious respiratory illnesses," it says.
"To gain the flying public's trust, airlines should also process full refunds during this time to financially disincentivize non-essential travel while the pandemic still claims thousands of lives daily,” Hudson says. “For any country in which an airline receives a bailout or substantial financial assistance from the government, a refusal to make responsible passengers whole via refunds will appear hypocritical and will ultimately further erode public confidence in the airlines' commitment to passenger health and wellbeing.”
To date, Hudson notes, airlines have been slow to implement health precautions, instead prioritizing revenue and government aid over the needs of passengers and public health. “We call on you to take bold steps to correct this in order to achieve the public confidence that the airlines seek.”