A4A Pledges Refunds To Passengers For Failing TSA Fever Checks

Credit: Thierry Monasse / Getty Images

WASHINGTON—Airlines for America (A4A) has pledged its member carriers will refund tickets paid by customers who fail pre-boarding temperature checks—on the condition they are conducted by federal authorities.

The airline lobby group has been advocating for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct mandatory temperature screening of all passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic, reasoning such checks will help reduce the risk of contagion and reassure the public about the safety of air travel.

TSA has so far refrained from performing temperature checks. The Trump administration has been studying the proposal, but no decision has been made.

The CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines met with Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials on June 26 to discuss the idea further, according to a CNBC report citing multiple sources briefed on the matter.

Beyond temperature checks, the discussions are believed to have extended to EU travel restrictions on American citizens, contract tracing of international arrivals and the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel demand.

Denver-based ULCC Frontier Airlines is the only U.S. carrier taking temperatures prior to boarding. Since June 1, Frontier—which is not represented by A4A—has been denying boarding to customers with temperatures of 100.4F or higher. 

Discussions about the fever checks come as concern about a possible second wave of COVID-19 grows, with many states recording increasing numbers of confirmed cases over the last week. Governors of a trio of abutting Northeastern states—Connecticut, New Jersey and New York—have imposed a 14-day quarantine order for travelers arriving from certain hard-hit states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

A spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates five New York area airports, said the agency is requesting that airlines make gate and onboard announcements to customers flying into the region, adding that rebooking assistance is being offered to customers who elect not to fly as a result of the quarantine order.

“We’ll continue to evaluate our schedule and adjust as needed based on demand, government travel restrictions and federal health guidelines,” the Port Authority spokesperson said.

Hawaii recently extended its14-day quarantine for out-of-state arrivals through July 31. Alaska, on the other hand, is offering incoming travelers the option to provide a negative test result within 72 hr. of boarding a plane bound for the state or to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days.

Passenger throughput data tracked by TSA continues to show steady increases in daily numbers of travelers, despite the concern about increasing coronavirus infections in many regions. The agency screened 623,000 people on June 25, the most recorded in a single day since March 18, although still down 77% from a year ago.

Ben Goldstein

Based in Boston, Ben covers advanced air mobility and is managing editor of Aviation Week Network’s AAM Report.