Safe Skies Initiative (How to safely reopen travel)

Safe Skies Initiative (How to safely reopen travel)

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The COVID-19 pandemic is crushing our economy and in particular, the travel industry. US airline passenger traffic plunged 90% in March and Forbes estimates that airlines will need upwards of $1T in bailouts with estimated global revenue losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Overall, the travel industry represents roughly 10% of global GDP and employs over seven million people in the U.S. alone which means that we will not see an economic rebound until we make it safe for people to fly again. And if we figure out a way to make flying safe, we can make it safe for people to go to baseball games, football games, concerts, shows, and restaurants. In other words, we get back to normal.

Think back to your travel experience in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The TSA hand-checked nearly all carry-on luggage which introduced massive delays but made passengers feel safe when flying. The COVID-19 pandemic is similar in that if we can make the skies safe again, travelers will return. But without a vaccine how will people feel safe getting onto a crowded airplane? We believe that they will return when they know that their fellow passengers are *not* infected with COVID-19. And the only way to ensure this is to test each and every passenger. This may sound daunting but no more daunting than hand-checking most carry-on luggage.

Envision this: Before entering the terminal at your local airport the TSA -- in partnership with the CDC and local medical teams -- will set up testing stations where passengers, airport employees, and flight crews will queue up to be tested. All of us will be swabbed, or provide saliva, or be pricked and then asked to wait while they process the test locally. The current shortest test times deliver results in five minutes with the quality and speed of testing increasing weekly.

One important point is that very few travelers will risk getting turned back at the airport and missing their business trip or vacation. Most if not all will have been tested prior to their trip which means the likelihood of positive tests at the airport drops dramatically (but not to zero). For those who get an antibody test and have immunity to COVID-19, the CDC could (should) have an app that displays an unhackable QR code that can be scanned and allows those passengers to skip the line similar to TSA PreCheck. (And yes, the medical community needs to settle the issue of immunity before granting a pass to those who have the antibodies).

We recognize and emphasize that the first priority is to provide the medical community with all the testing capabilities and capacity that they require. This is job one. But to give Americans the confidence to get back on airplanes for business and leisure travel, we believe that we need to make the skies safe again and that comprehensive testing starting with the largest airports will accomplish this. Proposed next steps are:

1) Create a groundswell of interest in this proposal by signing this petition

2) Create a public-private partnership between the TSA, CDC, local governments, and medical communities to formulate a “Safe Skies” plan with the goal being to test all passengers, flight crews, and airport employees at major airports

3) Extend the model to include hotels and resorts (Safe Stays), cruises (Safe Seas), trains (Safe Rails) as well as large local venues (Safe Stadiums, Safe Ballparks, Safe Theaters, etc.)

The travel industry can lead our economy and our country back from the COVID-19 crisis, please join me and become an advocate for the Safe Skies Initiative.