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,
- You may have a temperature and not have COVID-19.
- You may not have a temperature, but still have COVID-19.
- Fever is only one symptom of the virus that doesn’t manifest itself in everyone showing symptoms, or anyone not yet showing symptoms.
- People take pain relievers to mask low grade fever.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.