Press Releases

Larsen, Beyer Reintroduce Bill to Prepare U.S. Aviation for Public Health Emergencies

Today, Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), Chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, and Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08) reintroduced the National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act, legislation to require the development of a national aviation preparedness plan for future public health emergencies. The bill builds on similar solutions Larsen championed in the House-passed HEROES Act and the Healthy Flights Act of 2020.

A national aviation preparedness plan is long overdue. Lessons learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic show the urgent need for a national aviation preparedness plan to ensure the safety of aviation crews, employees and passengers and restore confidence in air travel,” said Rep. Larsen. “This bill will bring federal agencies, frontline aviation workers and other key stakeholders to the table to develop a clear, comprehensive plan of action to tackle future outbreaks.” 

“Throughout the pandemic the threat of disease spread via air travel has posed an ever-changing problem for policymakers. Our legislation would require the government to be better prepared to face this issue in the future,” said Rep. Beyer. “Watchdogs within the U.S. Government and the United Nations have both identified the necessity of a coordinated national strategy to prevent spread of disease by air travel as a crucial element in national and international pandemic response. Our bill would make this a priority, and require input from agencies across the government, as well as relevant stakeholders in the aviation sector. Had a national aviation preparedness plan been in place at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the response might have been stronger, quicker. We need to learn from those mistakes to do better in the future”

The National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act:

·       Requires the Department of Transportation (DOT), in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other relevant federal agencies, to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks.

  • Directs DOT to work with the U.S. air carriers, airports, labor unions representing frontline at-risk workers and key aviation stakeholders on a plan to, among other things:
    • Improve coordination between agencies, industries and nations for screening, testing, quarantining and contact-tracing;
    • Require that frontline employees are equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment;
    • Ensure frontline employees are appropriately considered for access to necessary vaccines and therapeutics;
    • Require aircraft, airports and other enclosed facilities to be sanitized and have appropriate protective infrastructure in accordance with public health guidelines; and
    • Identify opportunities to develop and deploy emerging technologies and solutions to reduce communicable disease transmission.

·       Calls for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment of the plan, including whether it responds to previous public health recommendations, meets the nation’s obligations under international conventions and treaties, and to what extent U.S. aviation is prepared to respond to future public health emergencies.

In 2015, Larsen requested a GAO study on the preparedness of U.S. aviation to handle the spread of a communicable disease during the emergence of the Ebola virus. The GAO recommended that a national aviation preparedness plan would help the U.S. aviation and public health sectors to coordinate on response efforts more effectively, while minimizing disruptions to the national aviation system.

The National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act is supported by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), the Port of Seattle, the U.S. Travel Association, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Airlines for America (A4A).

“AAAE and airport executives thank Chairman Larsen and Representative Beyer for their leadership on coronavirus-related issues and for their efforts to enhance national aviation preparedness for communicable disease outbreaks,” said AAAE President and CEO Todd Hauptli. “Better coordination within the Federal government and more effective consultation with airports, airlines and other stakeholders on a consistent planning framework will help make our nation’s aviation system safer for passengers and workers alike.”

"The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations applauds Congressman Rick Larsen and Congressman Don Beyer for their leadership with a National Aviation Preparedness Plan,” said CAPA President Captain Larry Rooney. “As professional pilots and leaders, our highly technical jobs support the vital transportation conduit that drives our modern economy.  This has never been more apparent as our Nation struggles from both an economic and health safety standpoint during the ongoing COVID crisis and beyond," Rooney added.

“Travel and tourism has been hit harder than any other U.S. industry by the pandemic, losing 4.5 million jobs last year,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “Better preparing our aviation system for a future event, as this bill does, will be critical to significantly limit the economic harm we have faced this past year and more quickly launch a recovery.”

“The Port of Seattle deeply appreciates Representative Larsen’s leadership on ensuring a consistent nationwide approach to keeping passengers and employees healthy and safe,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner and Aviation Committee Chair Ryan Calkins. “At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), we have implemented a wide range of new FlyHealthy@SEA initiatives, but the lack of consistent, enforceable national protocols throughout the entire air travel system has led to confusion and missed opportunities. The lessons from COVID-19 must be captured and incorporated into federal guidance, and we look forward to working with Congress and USDOT to complete this important work.”

To read the National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act, click here.