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U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces Guidance for Air Travel in Response to COVID-19

Thursday, July 2, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced public health guidance to airlines and airports for the recovery of the Nation’s air transportation system from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency. The Runway to Recovery was developed by the Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Homeland Security. It provides general guidance and recommends specific public health measures airlines and airports should take to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19. The guidance will enhance public health risk reduction to support an increase in travel volume while ensuring that aviation safety and security are not compromised.

“This document provides clear guidance to airlines and airports to protect the traveling public, and we encourage people to pay attention to it,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

A safe, secure, efficient and resilient air transportation system that addresses the threat of COVID-19 is critical to the Nation’s economic recovery. The Runway to Recovery identifies a series of actions that airports and airlines should implement across all operations and all phases of travel to, from, and within the United States. The guidance also explains how those measures should be adapted to the unique air travel environment. The measures include:

·    Educating and communicating with passengers and employees.
·    Passengers should wear face coverings everywhere in the air transportation environment. 
·    Promoting social distancing.
·    Enhancing disinfection and cleaning procedures.
·    Requiring health assessments from passengers and employees.
·    Collecting passenger contact information to enable notification in the event of suspected or confirmed exposure to COVID-19, a process known as contact tracing. 
·    Protecting employees and separating passengers and crew.
·    Minimizing in-person interaction and shared objects, documents and surfaces.
·    Reporting the daily status of public health risk mitigation efforts.
·    Enhancing airport security checkpoint operations to reduce exposure.
·    Using new technology to support mitigation measures. 

The Runway to Recovery expands on many of the activities that airports and airlines are already doing today and makes clear that these measures should be implemented as soon as possible, if they are not already in place. It notes that all aviation stakeholders, including passengers, should promote public health within the air transportation system. 
The U.S. Government anticipates providing additional guidance, in collaboration with stakeholders, that may call for augmenting or modifying measures as lessons are learned and risk conditions change.