In a recent letter sent to Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Stephen Dickson, Sen. Bernie Sanders noted the federal government’s failure to protect both passengers and airline workers during this global pandemic. The senator urged the DoT and FAA to begin implementing measures in order to protect flight attendants, pilots, passengers, ground crews, and any other airline employees from the spread of COVID-19.
In a letter sent on Thursday, Sen. Sanders wrote, “As COVID-19 cases in the United States reach new record highs, the recent announcement from American Airlines that it would resume filling its planes to capacity reveals a stunning lack of federal government action to protect passengers, flight attendants, pilots, and other aviation workers. At a Tuesday, June 30th hearing held by the Senate Committee of Health Education, Labor, and Pensions, both Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Redfield expressed ‘concern’ and ‘disappointment’ at the announcement by American Airlines to fill their planes to capacity.
“Today, I am writing to urge the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to take immediate action to mandate that airlines protect passengers and employees and put safety over profit.
“There is universal agreement among scientists and medical experts that social distancing and mask wearing are the two most important and effective tools we have to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Yet across the industry, airline policies on mask-wearing and social distancing have been inconsistent, incomplete, and unenforced. This is unacceptable and is endangering the health and safety of airline passengers and workers.”
Sanders called upon Chao and Dickson to mandate universal mask-wearing in all airports and airplanes, limit all commercial plane flights to two-thirds capacity, and require stringent standards for disinfection, air circulation, and air filtration of planes.
On Thursday, Sanders took to Twitter and wrote, “How on earth can airlines—in the middle of pandemic—fly their planes at full capacity?
“I am demanding federal action to require social distancing, mask-wearing, and disinfection in planes and airports.
“We must put the safety of passengers and workers ahead of corporate profits.”
That same day, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon tweeted a current photo of an airplane at capacity and wrote, “@AmericanAir: how many Americans will die bc you fill middle seats, w/ your customers shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour. This is incredibly irresponsible. People eat & drink on planes & must take off masks to do so. No way you aren’t facilitating spread of COVID infections.”