DOT denied the need for Flyers Rights’ rulemaking on the grounds that “most” airlines currently voluntarily adopt various forms of a mask rule and the notion that less regulation is better
Minutes before President Trump departed by helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Center for hospitalization following his COVID diagnosis, on October 2nd, the Department of Transportation (DOT) denied Flyers Rights’ emergency rulemaking petition requesting the DOT mandate a mask rule for all persons on airplanes and at airports, with some health, disability, and operational exceptions.
The DOT articulated three justifications for denying Flyers Rights’ rulemaking petition: First, DOT claimed that it does not need to promulgate a rule when “most” airlines already have adopted some form of a mask policy. Second, DOT argued its joint guidance with the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health & Human Services (HHS), recommending airlines and airports merely consider coronavirus mitigation techniques, is sufficient to meet their responsibilities to ensure safe air travel. Third, the DOT “embrace[d] the notion that there should be no more regulations than necessary,” according to DOT General Counsel Steven Bradbury.
“The DOT’s timing is impeccable,” Paul Hudson, President of Flyers Rights remarked. “President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis made the entire country confront the reality that the coronavirus pandemic is still active and that everyone must continue to follow CDC’s recommendation for mask wearing and social distancing. DOT abdicating its responsibility at this time is unconscionable.”
Paul Hudson continued, “DOT’s weak stance on coronavirus measures from the beginning, including masking and social distancing, forced the airlines to create a patchwork of policies on their own. Passengers cannot have confidence in air travel health safety based on voluntary policies that can be changed or ignored at will.”
DOT General Counsel Steven Bradbury’s denial letter notes, “All major U.S. carriers and most others require the use of face masks.” Paul Hudson cautioned “The DOT should not base its decision to not create and enforce a rule, on the basis that most, but not all, airlines have mask policies.”
Reports indicate that some airlines have been lax in enforcing their mask policies, and social distancing is impossible on most flights. Flyers Rights has also called on DOT to start monitoring the situation.
FlyersRights’ petition for rulemaking:
DOT’s denial letter:
FlyersRights.org maintains up to date passenger rights information at www.flyersrights.org/know-your-rights/ and also provides passengers with legal information and appropriate contacts by phone, 877-FLYERS-6 and by email, [email protected].
FlyersRights.org, established in 2007, is the largest airline passenger organization. It publishes a bi-weekly newsletter, operates a free hotline for airline passengers 877- FLYERS6, advocates for passenger rights and interests, represents passengers on the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee dealing with air safety and maintains a staffed office in Washington, D.C. See: FlyersRights.org or https://twitter.com/FlyersRights. Media line 800- 662-1859. FlyersRights.org, 4411 Bee Ridge Road, 274, Sarasota, FL 34233