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Case Introduces Measure to Authorize States to Impose Public Health Emergency Guidelines and Restrictions on Incoming Passenger Air Travel

His proposal follows the Federal Aviation Administration’s response that it does not have the authority to allow Hawai‘i to impose a pre-board test requirement on passengers destined for Hawai’i to protect visitors and residents from COVID-19. He also writes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to request state pre-board test authority to confront this public health emergency.

(Honolulu, HI) – Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) today introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives his proposed “Air Travel Public Health Emergency Act” to ensure the health and safety of air passengers and the public by authorizing states to implement reasonable guidelines and restrictions on air travel during public health emergencies, including pre-board tests and related denial of boarding.

“Passenger air travel is, or can be, a major vector in the spread of highly communicable diseases such as COVID-19,” said Case.

“Air passengers who have been infected by a communicable disease, especially during a declared public health emergency, present a serious public health risk not just to their fellow passengers but to all who come into contact with them at their destinations and upon their return to their home.

“Further, such passengers present a serious negative economic consequence to the airlines on which they fly and to the destinations at which they arrive, especially destinations reliant on the travel and tourism industry, as they destroy public confidence in the health and safety of air travel and of such destinations.”

Case said he introduced the measure after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in response to his request for confirmation, stated that “the agency has no authority to either grant permission or prohibit a local or State unit of government to pursue such a policy” to mandate pre-board testing of airline passengers bound for Hawai‘i.

“The FAA’s narrow interpretation of its current authority does not allow for actions focused on the broader public health consequences of passenger air travel especially in a pandemic,” said Case.

“Unless there are other sources of authority, the law must be changed to confirm that the FAA, which has almost exclusive jurisdiction of our national airspace, not only can but must take the broader public health into account and require that reasonable guidelines and restrictions by states to protect the public be allowed.”

Case’s bill would also require airlines to pay for any restrictions such as a pre-board test requirement and implementation. It would further assure that federal airport funding, which is a major contributor to operation of the country’s airports, would not be jeopardized by any state’s reasonable guidelines or restrictions.

In its response to Case, the FAA continued: “The most productive conversation may be between your office and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is provided many authorities under the Public Health Services Act to combat the spread of communicable diseases.”

In addition to introduction of his proposed Air Travel Public Health Emergency Act, Case has followed up on the FAA’s response and written to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking for confirmation of Hawai‘i’s  authority to impose reasonable conditions on passenger air travel to Hawai’i including pre-board testing.

“I believe that as the country reopens, the question of the health and safety of commercial aviation will play a major role in whether we can fully return to pre-COVID-19 rates of travel globally,” said Case.

“Our government at all levels must take active steps to ensure the health and safety of communities, passengers and crew arising from proposed resumption of any major airline travel. If we do not do so, with maximum public health safety measures in effect, people just won’t travel on airlines at anywhere near prior levels.”


Attachments:     Air Travel Public Health Emergency Protection Act

                          Case letter to FAA

                          FAA response

                          Case letter to DHHS