A pre-flight health declaration is not a new idea. It was included in the protocols established by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in May 2020 to safeguard passengers against COVID-19. Now, seven major American airlines will be taking this approach very seriously.
The Adoption of the Pre-Flight Health Declaration in America
Airlines for America (A4A), the advocacy group, has announced that several major United States airlines have decided to make a pre-flight health declaration compulsory for all passengers on their planes. This is one of several measures including the mandatory use of face coverings. Passengers flying with these airlines must fill in a simple form about their current state of health when they check in. But, how effective will this be as safeguard against COVID-19?
The Pre-flight Health Declaration in America
Each passenger travelling with one of the seven airlines will have to fill in a brief declaration before checking in. The airlines are: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
There are three sections to the declaration. The first requests an assurance “that the passenger will bring a face covering and wear it at the airport, on the jet bridge, and on board the aircraft.”
Secondly the passenger must give an assurance that the passenger is not experiencing any symptoms generally linked to COVID-19, namely ‘a temperature (38C/100.4F or higher), coughing, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, chills, muscle pain and/or sore throat.”
A third section asks questions aiming to establish if the passenger has been exposed to the virus recently. It asks for an assurance that the passenger has not had close contact with anyone who has tested positive or displayed symptoms of COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
What Effect Will The Declaration Have?
Passengers must fill in the declaration 48 hours before they fly. This gives health professionals time to assess the fitness of each passenger to travel. It is likely some passengers will not tell the truth. But it is hoped the declaration will make them consider whether they should travel. These declarations will remain in place until the COVID-19 crisis has ended. After that it will be up to each airline to decide whether to continue with them or not.
Worldwide, the Australian government has also implemented a pre-flight health screen. Qantas requires the form to be completed 48 hours before travel to give health professionals time to check them. Other airlines are following IATA (International Air Transport Association) guidelines which do advise the use of pre-flight health declarations but cannot mandate this.
In a constantly changing situation all passengers are advised to check the information on the website of their airline before travelling to ensure compliance with the requirements of that particular airline.