Delta to screen flyers’ temperatures as part of test at Los Angeles

Aug 10, 2020

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Delta passengers, be prepared for the airline to check your temperature if you’re flying out of Los Angeles (LAX) during the next few weeks.

The carrier will begin conducting temperature checks on Tuesday (Aug. 11) as part of a three-week pilot program. Delta’s test expands a temperature-screening pilot that the airport itself began testing at its Tom Bradley International Terminal in late June.

“As a part of our ongoing efforts to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate and provide additional layers of protection for our customers and employees, we are testing a temperature screening process for customers flying out of LAX Terminal 2,” Delta Air Lines said in a statement to TPG on Monday. “Customers who have a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be allowed to board consistent with the CDC’s fever threshold.”

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The story was first reported by the Thrifty Traveler website.

Delta will be the third U.S. carrier to screen customers’ temperatures. Frontier Airlines began doing so in June, taking passengers’ readings before boarding. Unlike Delta, Frontier’s temperature screening is ongoing and has been rolled out across the budget carrier’s network. And Southwest has been running a temperature-screening trial of its own at Dallas Love Field (DAL) that could run for up to three months.

Delta did not specify whether the temperature screening could become permanent or if it might be rolled out to other airports if the LAX pilot is deemed a success.

For now, the program will affect Delta customers who begin travel at LAX or who connect from the international Bradley Terminal to Delta flights in terminals T2 and T3.  Those flyers will be required to pass by thermal imaging cameras at the LAX T2 departure checkpoint.

However, Delta customers connecting on domestic flights within the T2 and T3 terminals will not be checked as part of the pilot.

More: Which US airlines are blocking middle seats and requiring masks?

If a passenger fails Delta’s temperature screening, the carrier said it would work with the traveler to rebook for a different date or to cancel the reservation and offer a refund.

More broadly, the moves by both Delta and Frontier underscore the efforts airlines are taking to try to convince a traveling public spooked by the coronavirus pandemic that it’s safe to return to the skies.

Airlines in the U.S. and around the world are hemorrhaging cash amid a global collapse in travel. Travel demand cratered to  just 4% of normal in April, and — on top of that — carriers have been hit with a spike in cancellation and refund requests.

Domestically, airlines enjoyed a slight rebound into June, but that leveled off amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases across much of the nation. Even with the rebound, domestic passenger numbers are still down 72% year-over-year for the week ending Aug. 2, according to trade group Airlines for America.

Opinion: For the love of travel: Why we need a federal mandate on masks now more than ever

Looking ahead, there’s concern in the industry that passenger numbers could dive again once the summer travel season ends and kids go back to school – either in person or remote. In normal years, corporate travel rises after Labor Day and helps keep planes full as leisure travel tails off. But that’s unlikely in 2020, when few people are back in offices yet – let alone traveling for work.

Against that backdrop, U.S. carrier’s have tried to burnish their safety credentials.

All now require masks on board, with a number of U.S. airlines strengthening their rules and requirements during the past two months. Several have resorted to banning passengers who refuse to comply.

And four big U.S. airlines – Delta, Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest – currently cap seat sales to help keep middle seats empty and promote social-distancing.

More: What’s it like to fly during a pandemic? We compared 4 different US airlines

Nearly every big U.S. carrier has gone public to promote its safety efforts. And Frontier CEO Barry Biffle implored the public to start flying again in an interview last week with TPG’s Edward Russell.

“Flying is one of the safest things you can do outside your home. The air is as clean as a hospital surgery room,” Biffle said. “It’s time to fly.”

Now, only time will tell if the travel public buys in. Stay tuned …

Editor’s note: This post us been updated to show that Southwest is running a temperature-screening trial at Dallas Love Field. 

Featured photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

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