Hawaii Congressman to FAA: Pre-board testing is key to protecting Hawaii’s public, not just post-arrival self-quarantine

(Photo courtesy Desiree Acenas)


By Alfred Acenas
EBC Hawaii Bureau

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Eagle News) – Democratic Congressman Ed Case (representing Honolulu and urban Oahu) called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday, May 13, to confirm the state’s ability to impose and enforce preventative public health conditions for future air travel to the Islands, pursuant to preventing any outbreak surge of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) in Hawaii.

In his letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, Case asked for the FAA’s “cooperation in confirming Hawaii’s ability to impose and enforce conditions on air travel to Hawai‘i, which are critical to ensuring (a) the health of Hawaii’s residents and visitors and (b) the safe recovery of Hawaii’s economy and in particular our travel and tourism industry.

“These conditions would be as reasonably determined by the State of Hawaii as necessary to protect public health. This could include requiring testing of all intended passengers (including crew) on any direct air travel to Hawaii before boarding,” the Congressman continued. “Such testing could include at least fever testing and, as available, on-site rapid COVID-19 testing, as now required by international airlines such as Emirates on some flights. The requirement for enforcing these conditions would be borne by the airlines as a condition of accepting any intended passenger on any direct flight to Hawaii, and any airline would be required to deny boarding to any intended passenger with a fever which, under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, indicates potential COVID-19 infection or who tests positive.

“I further understand that the State of Hawaii imposed the 14-day incoming quarantine requirement in large part because it understood from the FAA, in its March and April guidance and otherwise, that the imposition of such pre-board conditions was not authorized by existing statutes and regulations and would jeopardize federal funding,” Case wrote further. “I also understand from discussion with the FAA to date that in fact the FAA is focused on the safe and efficient use of the nation’s airspace (with safe not generally including protection of general ground populations from COVID-19 and efficient generally referring to maximum use), that the protection of the general public health in addition to air-related risks is not within FAA’s mandate, and that absent superseding authority in other federal agencies such as the CDC, the FAA is unwilling or unable to authorize the State of Hawaii to impose reasonable public health-related restrictions on travelers as a condition of travel to Hawaii.

“I ask and urge you to revisit these issues and assist me, the State of Hawaii, the people I represent, the visitors to Hawaii and the destinations to which they will return in finding a solution allowing the State of Hawaii to impose reasonable public health pre-board conditions on intended passengers to Hawaii,” the Congressman emphasized. “Simply put, if passengers do not feel safe coming to Hawaii because they fear contracting COVID-19 on the flight or in Hawaii, or if Hawaii residents do not feel safe with passengers getting off planes in Hawaii, air travel to Hawaii will not recover leading to many consequences to include FAA and airport-supportive revenues. The same is true throughout the country and so the necessity of safe travel is in all respects a national one which FAA should better face now.”

His letter concludes, “Considering the urgency of protecting Hawaii’s current and future public health, I ask for your specific response by no later than Wednesday, May 20th. I stand ready, together with the State of Hawaii and other interested parties both in Hawaii and nationally, to work with you on fashioning an effective solution to this critical matter.”

(Eagle News Service)