Southwest Airlines has expressed its views today that passengers should be subject to a temperature check before boarding aircraft. But it wants the TSA to introduce this as a requirement, something it is not yet ready to do.
Asking for temperature checks
According to reporting by CBS News on May 6th, Southwest Airlines has asked the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to consider the introduction of passenger temperature checks at airports. This is a practice that many airlines, and governments, are looking at as part of measures to make flying safer during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with CBS News, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said:
“We’re urging the TSA … to begin temperature scans as part of the screening process at the checkpoints.”
Air Canada is the first airline in the Americas to announce that it will require passenger temperature checks. It will introduce these from May 15th, along with a health questionnaire. Any passenger deemed unfit will be denied boarding and re-booked (at no charge).
Southwest Airlines, however, thinks it should be the TSA introducing these checks at airports. Kelly explained in his interview how “we don’t want to be the police,” but wants to work with the government in this area.
More than social distancing needed
Southwest has already introduced several measures to safeguard passengers and crew as flying continues. This includes cleaning aircraft with electrostatic misters, requiring passengers and crew to wear face masks, and installing plastic shields at ticket counters and gates. Unlike some other airlines, it is not blocking middle seats (passengers, in any case, are free to choose seats). But it will sell fewer seats to allow passengers to practice social distancing.
Kelly explained in his interview that more is needed than just onboard measures. Moves need to be made to stop sick passengers being on aircraft. He said:
“Wash your hands, don’t come to the airport if you’re sick. Let’s do temperature screening. Ultimately, obviously, the solution is to have testing, therapeutics, a vaccine.”
No plans from the TSA at present
The TSA has not yet made any decision though for implementation. In response to CBS News, the TSA explained in a statement:
“No decision has been made regarding specific health screenings. TSA continues to rely on the health expertise of HHS and the CDC. Ongoing discussions with our DHS and interagency colleagues, as well as our airport and airline partners, will enable the agency to make informed decisions with regard to the health and safety of the aviation environment.”
As aviation picks up, there will likely be many changes to how airports operate. Several airports around the world have introduced temperature checks. But the situation varies widely as airports, airlines, and governments adapt to changing views on what will work.
In the UK, for example, the CEO of Heathrow Airport has already explained his views that social distancing is impossible at airports. Heathrow is also starting a trial of temperature checks in terminals.
Air Canada may be going ahead and introducing checks for passengers. But it would be hard for any US airline to really do so without TSA support. As the situation moves quickly, we will likely hear more very soon from other US airlines, and the TSA.
Simple Flying contacted Southwest Airlines, but it declined to provide any further comments.