Airline CEOs Ask Vice President Pence For TSA Temperature Checks At Airports

Major U.S. airline CEOs are meeting with Vice President Pence today. One of their asks is for the government to conduct temperature checks of passengers at airports, something the TSA has been considering.

Like United with David Dao, this is airlines turning their own problems over to law enforcement, and with bad effects.

Airlines say that they’ll refund tickets for customers turned away by tempaerature checks at the airport. This is dumb. They’re requiring sick passengers to show up and possibly infect others on the way to the airport and in security lines in order to get refunds.

Bear in mind,

  1. You may have a temperature and not have COVID-19.

  2. You may not have a temperature, but still have COVID-19.

  3. Fever is only one symptom of the virus that doesn’t manifest itself in everyone showing symptoms, or anyone not yet showing symptoms.

  4. People take pain relievers to mask low grade fever.

  5. You may not have a temperature, but the TSA gives you a faulty reading because they don’t maintain their equipment properly (a charge leveled at the agency in the past) or because a screener doesn’t use it properly.

  6. When the government does it, the practice won’t end once the pandemic is over. We still go through the shoe carnival 19 years after Richard Reid’s ham-fisted attempt to hide a bomb in his shoe. We still pull out plastic bags of liquids 14 years later, though doing so has never caught a terrorist.

  7. This requires a change in law, moving this forward administratively is illegal. According to the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee the move is illegal, “I cannot find any law that gives TSA the authority to perform temperature checks as reported.”

  8. This distracts TSA from its security mission, causing them to focus on temperatures instead.

      Temperature checks are health security theater. It’s one thing for airlines to require it themselves, another thing to make it an extra-legal government mandate that’s hard to turn back.

      The solution is to make it easier for passengers who get sick not to fly, not to make passengers show up sick and infect others in order to get a refund.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, I’m a fan of your blog and read it a lot. I see a lot of you harping on really any Covid mitigation plans. Would you consider articles showing (perhaps with evidence) what YOU would do instead of the ideas you refute? I feel like that may be helpful commentary.

  2. @ Gary — What OTC med can I safely take to raise my temperature when I just want a free refund?

  3. So you’d want a person with a temperature sitting next to you even if they didn’t have COVID-19? It takes 5-10 seconds. I don’t see the harm.

  4. This is not dumb you are dumb, they have been doing this in Asia for years even before COVID 19.

  5. I get that some of this is theatre, but it’s acceptable theatre for now. Ultimately, what’s the downside?

    While I am ALL for regulation on change and cancellation fees due to self-diagnosed passenger illness, do you really think that this is in line with your own libertarian / free-market self? I am happy for you to advocate, but it doesn’t seem very Gary-like…

    PS – If you register a temperature with the TSA and don’t believe it, can you ask for another one?

  6. If the people taking the temperature are being used as screeners for a virus in a pandemic, then they should have to wear the full protective suits, like they did in asia, when they are screening passengers. Do the tsa staff and the airline check in and gate staff want to work in that gear?
    I wouldnt. I’m not sure that temperature checks alone are that useful or effective. why don’t the just put a temperature sensor in the nude-a-scope? they could get 3d thermal images of people. It would be like having your aura examined at the airport.

  7. @Gene – maybe just use a heating pad or some sort of hot compress. If surface temperature is all that’s taken, not internal, then perhaps that’s all you need to do.

  8. @ Rick: You say “they have been doing this in Asia for years even before COVID 19.” Huh? I routinely travel in Asia (Korea, Singapore, Japan, and China in the last year) – and I can’t recall ever having been temperature screened at departure. I’ve seen temperature checks in immigration upon arrival, but it’s certainly not common for departure.
    This is stupid policy. Doesn’t do anything to counter asymptomatic spread – which is the core problem with COVID. And will flag a bunch of people who aren’t carrying coronavirus.

    Now – if we want to implement a policy that says you can’t pass through a TSA checkpoint if you’re not wearing a mask, that would actually be a positive COVID-mitigation measure – as much as for signaling the importance of mask wearing as for anything else. (Yes, I realize people could simply take the mask off after passing through the checkpoint).

  9. Every Asian country that has successfully fought COVID-19 does temperature screening.
    * Vietnam (since January):
    * Taiwan (since February):
    * Hong Kong (even for transferring pax):
    * Mainland China
    * Japan

    The U.S. doesn’t do any of it.

    I prefer siding with Asians who successfully won the war than the idiots running the U.S. who are losing it. Bring on the temperature screening — they should have started FIVE months ago!

  10. You are wrong here. This needs to be done and govt (not airlines) need to manage it. This is how it is done elsewhere.

  11. Seen this in other parts of the world. Its not unreasonable. The country needs to take drastic action to get the situation under control. We are being cutoff from the rest of the world given the incompetence of the current administration and the constant naysayers that appear to have issues with steps that can be taken to mitigate the spread of this virus. If you knew somebody well who had this virus and gone through the full range of symptoms you would be singing a different tune. If you get hit with this, even if it doesnt put you in the hospital it will likely be the worst thing you have ever experience in your life and we still don’t know what the long term impacts are on the health of people who have had this. There is a very real possibility that the virus shortens the life expectancy of people who have had it.

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