WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Today, Congresswoman Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL) and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) introduced the Healthy Air Travel Act to further protect the health of air travelers and aviation industry workers.
“Preparation is paramount. Before we are forced to confront another pandemic, we must first fully understand how best to prevent the spread of communicable disease while traveling and how we can keep Americans healthy while they’re in the air or in an airport,” said Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. “This legislation will help the federal government learn life-saving lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and be better equipped to respond in the face of an outbreak.”
“By bringing an interagency, interdisciplinary approach to protect the health of the traveling public, airline crews and the air travel industry as a whole, the Healthy Air Travel Act will help us fill in the gaps of our research into how communicable diseases like COVID-19 are spread on flights, and better leverage federal resources to develop and implement a strategy that will not just inform policy but save lives.” said Congressman Hank Johnson.
The Healthy Air Travel Act is bipartisan legislation that will establish an interagency task force comprising of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to devise and implement a plan to identify and advance research on communicable diseases in air travel.
In 2022, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighted the necessity for a federal strategy to effectively coordinate interdisciplinary research and improve our comprehension of the risks associated with disease transmission throughout the entire air travel process. The GAO specifically recommended that Congress instruct FAA to lead the development and implementation of a strategy aimed at advancing research to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases within airports and on-board aircraft.
“Aviation connects the world. As aviation’s first responders and last line of defense, Flight Attendants have a unique perspective and role to play in mitigating the spread of communicable disease,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing 50,000 Flight Attendants at 19 airlines. “Through this legislation, Reps. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Hank Johnson recognize the expertise of Flight Attendants and our union, together with other aviation stakeholders to examine hard learned lessons in order to implement the best preparations before the next outbreak. We are proud to support the Healthy Air Travel Act for the health of workers, passengers, our communities at home as well as those we visit around the world. Safety and health are also fundamental for the viability of aviation, the backbone of our economy.”
“If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s the importance of taking essential public health and safety precautions, especially on public transportation systems like commercial flights, said Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “Providing researchers with the tools and relevant data to identify gaps in communicable disease research will make air travel safer for airline workers and customers.”
“Keeping workers safe during a communicable disease outbreak is essential to the safety and security of commercial air travel,” said John Samuelsen, International President of the Transport Workers Union of America. By mandating that worker perspectives are included in a multi-government agency communicable disease task force, the Healthy Air Travel Act will help ensure past mistakes are not repeated and the lives of TWU members are better protected.”
“APFA thanks Representative Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Representative Hank Johnson for introducing the Healthy Air Travel Act,” said Julie Hedrick, National President, Association of Professional Flight Attendants. “Health and safety on the airplane is the number one priority for Flight Attendants. Should we ever face another pandemic, we owe it to our passengers, industry, and workforce to be better prepared. This legislation enables advanced communicable disease research in air travel—including the impact of ventilation, crowding, and mask-wearing—and would establish better coordination between FAA, DHS, and HHS.”
The legislation has been endorsed by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Transportation Trades Department (TTD), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), and The International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The legislation is also co-sponsored by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Don Bacon (R-NE), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and André Carson (D-IN).
The full text of the bill can be found here.