US airlines are pledging to offer flight refunds if you have a fever… but only if the TSA starts doing temperature checks on passengers.
Airlines want passenger temperature screenings
The US airline industry wants the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to start administering temperature checks on passengers as they go through security checkpoints. This is a practice that we’ve seen all over the world (in particular in many parts of Asia) for years, but that hasn’t been implemented in the US up until now.
While this is something airline executives want, it’s questionable if it will actually happen. Airline CEOs met with Vice President Mike Pence last Friday to request this (among other things), though apparently didn’t get a commitment.
While I’m no doctor or scientist, to me it seems logical enough to add temperature checks at security checkpoints, even beyond the coronavirus pandemic. I say that as someone who usually has little faith in the TSA.
Before I share why I feel that way, let me acknowledge that:
- Just because someone has a temperature doesn’t mean they have coronavirus, and conversely, just because someone has coronavirus doesn’t mean they have a temperature
- The machines aren’t going to catch everyone who has an elevated temperature, as the machines may have issues, or the people operating the machines may miss some people
- The Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has said that he “cannot find any law that gives TSA the authority to perform temperature checks”
Even so, the concept of taking passengers’ temperatures generally makes sense to me. Isn’t fewer people with elevated temperatures flying a good thing? I understand it’s not the perfect solution, but this seems to me like one of those situations where something is better than nothing.
Airlines pledge to offer refunds to those with fevers
One big question about these temperature checks has revolved around what happens in the event that you’re found to have an elevated temperature.
Today Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization representing major US airlines, has announced that member airlines will voluntarily pledge to refund tickets for any passenger found to have an elevated temperature during a screening process conducted by federal authorities prior to travel.
A few things come to mind based on this:
- This commitment is contingent upon the TSA performing these temperature checks, and it’s far from a sure thing that this will happen; in the meantime you’re not getting a refund for an elevated temperature
- Most major airlines are offering flexible cancelation policies, so hopefully airlines would offer actual cash refunds, rather than future ticket credits (which aren’t refunds)
- I can’t help but think that the next travel hack for those looking for a refund will be trying to figure out how to fake a high temperature
And then there’s the biggest concern I have — this policy would be encouraging passengers to show up at the airport with a temperature if they’re looking for a refund. While I think the above policy makes sense, this should be in addition to being able to get a refund if you can somehow otherwise prove you have a fever. After all, the most responsible thing is to check your temperature before leaving home, and then not going to the airport if you have a fever.
In other words, airlines shouldn’t be telling people they have to prove that they’re sick at the actual airport in order to get a refund.
Airlines are pledging to offer refunds to passengers with fevers, assuming that federal temperature checks are introduced at airports.
Personally I’m in favor of airport temperature checks, and I appreciate the assurance airlines are offering to those with elevated temperatures. However, there should also be a way to get a refund if you have a fever without actually showing up at the airport.
What do you make of the concept of the TSA performing temperature checks on passengers?