Omicron is spreading. Biden must already give air travelers a vaccination warrant

Every time President Biden takes off on Air Force One, everyone on board has been fully vaccinated and tested negative for the coronavirus. So why should it be any different for you and me when we head to Pocatello or West Palm Beach?

Unlike the United States’ major trading partners, such as Canada, Great Britain, the European Union, and countries in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, passengers from this country who board a domestic flight to a state (other than Hawaii) do not need to show proof of vaccination or negative test.

On a recent trip to London and Amsterdam, I needed a vaccination certificate to board my flights from Michigan to England, as well as a boat to the Netherlands. On the way home, everyone on our plane had to test negative 24 hours before boarding and foreign travelers had to show proof of vaccination.

Back in Chicago, meanwhile, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus increased, I boarded a domestic flight totally unable to avoid the unvaccinated passengers among me.

Our government’s continued failure to protect the public health of common carriers in the United States demonstrates the awesome power of airline lobbyists, who have earned more than $ 79 billion in federal salary supports, grants and loans since the start of the decade. COVID-19.

At the same time, Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is forcing employers of more than 100 workers to require vaccination or weekly coronavirus testing, White House refuses to extend rule to airline passengers national airlines. Federal Aviation Administration administrator Steve Dickson, a former senior executive at Delta (the airline, not the variant), insists the FAA is “not a public health agency.”

Over the next few months, all flight crews will be vaccinated or tested weekly. Domestic passengers, for their part, will remain exempt.

This makes as much sense as requiring flight attendants to wear seat belts while still allowing passengers to fly beltless.

Our government’s ill-conceived exemption for domestic passengers, which airlines and some of their unions have fought for, contradicts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice to all Americans: “Do not travel overseas. until you are fully immunized. Instead, it supposedly protects the bottom line of carriers worried about losing the market for unvaccinated passengers.

This double standard underscores the tortured logic of airline executives working at companies like United, where employee vaccination is mandatory. They argue that flying on a crowded neck-to-neck flight is safer than sipping tea in your own living room.

Unconvinced by this argument, some passengers I know stay at home rather than take domestic flights. They don’t want to risk being infected by potentially contagious passengers who refuse vaccination despite overwhelming scientific evidence of its safety and effectiveness, based on nearly 9 billion vaccines worldwide.

Understandably, these fearful travelers worry about contact with hundreds of other potentially infectious passengers during airport check-in, baggage drop-offs, departure lounges, gateways and airport transit systems. Six feet of separation from unvaccinated people is not possible in this environment.

Despite the spread of the new omicron variant, some airline CEOs even argue that current flight safety requirements are an unnecessary burden. During a Senate hearing on Dec. 15, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said, “I think the argument is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, to the face. cabin environment. “

Kelly’s point was echoed at the same hearing by American Airlines CEO Doug Parker: “A plane is the safest place you can be.

Evidence suggests otherwise – for a variety of reasons. In the pre-COVID era from 2007 to 2017, the International Air Transport Association reported that unruly passenger events averaged around 6,600 per year worldwide. This year, there have been more than 5,600 unruly passenger incidents on US carriers, including Southwest and American. More than 1,000 cases are currently under investigation, more than five times more than in 2020.

Often the trigger is a dispute over mask requirements on board.

“The level of unruly behavior is much higher than I have ever seen,” said David Pekoske, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, in a recent interview.

Another problem is the record seizure of nearly 5,700 firearms, 85% loaded, at TSA checkpoints in 2021. Dallas, home of the Kelly and Parker airlines, ranks second, just ahead of Houston.

I don’t think it is too much to suggest that a quick study of those prosecuted for attacking flight crews on mask warrants and attempting to pack heat on board would indicate that many of these angry passengers are not vaccinated. If I’m right, the White House would have another compelling reason to require domestic travelers to show proof of vaccination.

As airlines continue to resist a mandate to vaccinate domestic passengers, Southwest’s Kelly offered a mea culpa two days after that Senate hearing. Speaking on behalf of US airlines, he endorsed “the current federal mandate (mask) at airports and on planes.”

Kelly couldn’t do an about-face in person because, an airline spokesperson explained, he had fallen with COVID shortly after returning from our nation’s capital. “Gary is doing well and is currently resting at home. He has been fully vaccinated and received the booster earlier this year.

A frequent traveler, Roger Rapoport is the co-author of the aviation books “Angle of Attack” and “Grounded With Captain Shem Malmquist”. His new novel Bay Area, “My Search for Sarah Price” will be released next year.

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