Major U.S. airline CEOs to hold White House meeting Friday

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – The CEOs of major U.S. airlines are set to hold a meeting Friday to discuss several coronavirus-related travel issues, including a push to convince the federal government to mandate temperature checks for passengers, three people briefed on the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: American Airlines passenger planes crowd a runway where they are parked due to flight reductions to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

The meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and other senior U.S. officials is expected to include the chief executive officers of American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), Southwest Airlines (LUV.N), United Airlines (UAL.O) and JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O), the sources said.

The White House confirmed Pence would meet with airline executives Friday afternoon, but did not identify the companies.

The discussions will also include potential extended European Union travel restrictions on U.S. travelers, contract tracing of passengers and the impact of COVID-19 on travel demand, among other issues, the sources said.

The airlines declined to comment on the meeting.

U.S. airlines are pushing the Trump administration to require temperature checks for passengers in a bid to reassure customers about the safety of travel in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airlines for America, which represents the largest U.S. airlines, said on Thursday its members voluntarily pledged to refund tickets for passengers with high temperatures during federal screenings.

Reuters reported May 9 the U.S. government has been studying imposing temperature checks at airports, but two U.S. officials said on Thursday no decision has been made – and the government still has not decided what agency would conduct tests.

Many believe the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would conduct tests, but questions remain including whether passengers with high fevers would be reported to public health authorities.

“Nobody wants to be the person that tells a flying, paying customer they can’t fly that day,” United Executive Chairman Oscar Munoz said during a video conference Thursday.

U.S. officials said temperature checks would not eliminate coronavirus risks but could deter unwell people from traveling.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported the White House wants a plan in place by Sept. 1 for airlines to collect contact tracing information from U.S.-bound international passengers after convening a high-level White House meeting.

The White House tasked a interagency working group with adopting an interim solution by June 30 and ahead of any potential coronavirus second wave.

In February, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an interim final rule to require airlines to collect five contact data elements from international passengers and electronically submit them to Customs and Border Protection to facilitate contact tracing.

Updated: June 28, 2020 — 2:24 pm