(Honolulu, HI) – Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) today called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to confirm the State of Hawai‘i’s ability to impose and enforce COVID-19 prevention public health conditions on air travel to the islands.
In his letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, Case asked for the FAA”s “cooperation in confirming Hawaii’s ability to impose and enforce conditions on air travel to Hawai‘i which are critical to ensuring (a) the health of Hawaii’s residents and visitors and (b) the safe recovery of Hawaii’s economy and in particular our travel and tourism industry.”
Case continues: “These conditions would be as reasonably determined by the State of Hawai‘i as necessary to protect public health. This could include requiring testing of all intended passengers (including crew) on any direct air travel to Hawai‘i before boarding.
“Such testing could include at least fever testing and, as available, on-site rapid COVID-19 testing, as now required by international airlines such as Emirates on some flights. The requirement for enforcing these conditions would be borne by the airlines as a condition of accepting any intended passenger on any direct flight to Hawai‘i, and any airline would be required to deny boarding to any intended passenger with a fever which, under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, indicates potential COVID-19 infection or who tests positive.”
Case continued: “I further understand that the State of Hawai‘i imposed the 14-day incoming quarantine requirement in large part because it understood from the FAA, in its March and April guidance and otherwise, that the imposition of such pre-board conditions was not authorized by existing statutes and regulations and would jeopardize federal funding.
“I also understand from discussion with the FAA to date that in fact the FAA is focused on the safe and efficient use of the nation’s airspace (with safe not generally including protection of general ground populations from COVID-19 and efficient generally referring to maximum use), that the protection of the general public health in addition to air-related risks is not within FAA’s mandate, and that absent superseding authority in other federal agencies such as the CDC, the FAA is unwilling or unable to authorize the State of Hawai‘i to impose reasonable public health-related restrictions on travelers as a condition of travel to Hawai‘i.
“I ask and urge you to revisit these issues and assist me, the State of Hawai‘i, the people I represent, the visitors to Hawai‘i and the destinations to which they will return in finding a solution allowing the State of Hawai‘i to impose reasonable public health pre-board conditions on intended passengers to Hawai‘i.
“This could include flexibility within existing statutes and regulations, identification of superseding authority in other federal agencies, and proposed changes to existing regulations and statutory authority. In the latter case, I ask that you initiate any required rule changes under expedited authority, and propose to me specific statutory amendments which would provide you with the necessary authority.
“I ask that you do so on an emergency basis considering the continued public health threat to Hawai‘i from our inability to impose and enforce effective mitigation requirements. But I also ask that you do so because these questions will have to be answered and the necessary changes will have to be made for Hawai‘i to reopen to any great extent to air travel.
“Simply put, if passengers do not feel safe coming to Hawai‘i because they fear contracting COVID-19 on the flight or in Hawai‘i, or if Hawai‘i residents do not feel safe with passengers getting off planes in Hawai‘i, air travel to Hawai‘i will not recover leading to many consequences to include FAA and airport-supportive revenues. The same is true throughout the country and so the necessity of safe travel is in all respects a national one which FAA should better face now.
The letter concludes: “Considering the urgency of protecting Hawaii’s current and future public health, I ask for your specific response by no later than Wednesday, May 20th. I stand ready, together with the State of Hawai‘i and other interested parties both in Hawai‘i and nationally, to work with you on fashioning an effective solution to this critical matter.”
Attachment: Letter to FAA Administrator