White House does not commit to temperature checks in meeting with U.S. airlines

FILE PHOTO: Passenger walks through Reagan National airport as air travel continues to be minimal in Washington
FILE PHOTO: A passenger walks through Reagan National airport as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to keep airline travel at minimal levels and the U.S. economy contracts in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since the Great Recession, in Washington, U.S. April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

June 26, 2020

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Top U.S. airline executives met on Friday with Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials but did not come away with any commitments from the White House on mandating temperature checks for airline passengers.

Pence met with the chief executives of United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and the president of Southwest Airlines at the White House alongside Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Mark Redfield, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other officials.

Airlines want the U.S. government to administer temperature checks to all passengers in a bid to reassure the public.

The Trump administration is open to the idea of having the Transportation Security Administration conduct the tests, but there are still many unanswered questions, including what would happen to passengers who had high fevers and were denied boarding and how to pay for the screening.

Major airlines on Thursday said they would refund air fares to passengers denied boarding if the government conducted tests.

The CDC does not want to be responsible for travelers with high fevers, two people briefed on the meeting said.

The aviation industry, suffering an unprecedented downturn in travel, has urged the government to mandate measures that could help reassure passengers on the safety of travel. Airline executives told government officials that the public views temperature checks and face coverings as two key factors to boost confidence in air travel. Government officials plan to keep studying the idea, officials said.

Trade group Airlines for America said it looked “forward to working with the administration to identify and implement initiatives that help relaunch the U.S. airline industry.”

Representative Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said last week the Trump administration should not mandate temperature checks without adopting formal regulations.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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