US Senate Seeks To Mandate Temperature Checks At TSA Checkpoints

A proposed US senate bill would make it mandatory for the Transport Security Administration (TSA) to conduct temperature checks at its airport checkpoints. Under the bill, all passengers and other persons would have to be checked before entering a sterile area of an airport.

Pilot program for temperature check at US airports

According to the Washington Post, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee by Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell, and Republican, Senator Rick Scott would require the TSA to screen all people seeking to enter an airport’s sterile area. If they show a temperature of 100.4° or more, they will not be permitted to enter.

The TSA would be required to set up a 120-day pilot program within 30 days of the bill being passed. As well as setting up the program, the TSA would need to consult with the Secretaries of Transportation, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the TSA can choose the airports for the pilot program, it must “select airports that represent diverse operating conditions, with high, medium, and low passenger throughput.”

During the trial, the TSA would have to address a wide range of concerns, including TSA employee training, the type of technology to use for screenings, screening procedures (including how to accommodate individuals with disabilities or those observing religious practices), and privacy concerns.

At the end of the pilot program, the TSA must issue a policy for conducting temperature checks for the remainder of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Senator Cantwell said,

“For workers and the traveling public, a temperature check program provides important data. The legislation I introduced would require TSA to use innovative temperature screening technology to better protect passenger and worker health, and build public trust in the aviation system.”

The TSA already has the power to conduct tests

For several months, US Airlines have been pushing for the TSA to conduct temperature checks on passengers. However, the TSA has resisted lobbying for it to perform the checks itself, instead calling for the airlines and airports to undertake them. Should the new bill become law, the TSA would no longer have the discretion to reject such calls.

Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, the TSA already has total authority over transport security. Two specific provisions of the act may give the TSA the power to conduct temperature screening on passengers.

The first grants the TSA the authority to act in response to a “national emergency,” and the other affords the TSA the discretion to carry out unspecified measures “related to transportation security.”

The airlines and DOT must do their part

The proposed bill also requires airlines and the Department of Transport (DOT) to prioritize passenger safety. If a passenger is prevented from traveling after showing a high temperature, airlines would have to allow them to change or cancel their flight with no charge. Where an employee shows a fever, they should be subject to the airline’s leave policies.

Under the bill, the DOT would be required to alter its passenger notification regulations to require airlines to inform passengers about safe travel guidelines, that they will be subject to an airport temperature check, and that they should not travel if they have a fever.

Temperature checks have been the norm at many airports around the world for several months. Many countries now require proof of a negative pre- and/or post-travel COVID-19 test from all air passengers. A number of US airlines also offer coronavirus testing, so this bill seems to be way behind the times.