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Southwest CEO urges TSA to add temperature scans to screening checks

May 06, 2020
3 min read
Southwest CEO urges TSA to add temperature scans to screening checks
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Will travelers soon have to submit to a temperature check in addition to emptying their your pockets before going through screening at U.S. airport security checkpoints?

That’s what at least one prominent airline CEO would like to see.

"We're urging the TSA ... to begin temperature scans as part of the screening process at the checkpoints,'' Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said morning during a Wednesday morning interview with "CBS This Morning."

Kelly appeared on the network morning to highlight safety updates the carrier has made in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It was part of a broader message to reassure passengers that it’ll be safe to return to the skies. With demand currently at near-zero in the U.S. and elsewhere, that’s something Southwest and other airlines will need to have happen if they’re to staunch the financial carnage hitting carriers across the globe.

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As the CEO of the nation's top carrier of domestic travelers, Kelly's words come with influence. And he's not the only prominent airline CEO to say health screenings could become part of the flying experience in the wake of coronavirus.

“We will make whatever changes to the business model that will be necessary,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in late April, suggesting that what he called “immunity passports” could be a requirement for travelers.

He continued: “Could there be a new public health agency coming out that requires a new passport to travel? I don’t know but we’ll be on the forefront of all those advances.”

While the industry figures out what's next on the health front, Southwest's Kelly took the opportunity of Wednesday's interview to say what his carrier has been doing so far.

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More: Delta CEO raises prospect of ‘immunity passports’ for air travel

Kelly said Southwest is installing plexiglass shields at check-in counters and noted flyers will see that at TSA checkpoints, too.

Kelly also said the airline has increased efforts to disinfect and clean planes, though he acknowledged that effort only goes so far if sick passengers board a plane.

"That's why I think leading up to that — wash your hands, don't come to the airport if you're sick. Let's do temperature screening,” he said to CBS. "Ultimately, obviously, the solution is to have testing, therapeutics, a vaccine."

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

Additionally, Southwest – like Delta and Alaska airlines – is capping ticket sales so that planes don’t fly full. That will help passengers social distance by ensuring there are enough empty seats to go around.

But, even there, he noted that’s not a perfect solution either, instead telling CBS that a "multi-layered approach" is needed.

"We'll have wipes on the airplane that each customer can take," Kelly said. "Requiring masks on the airplane are important because you won't necessarily all be six feet apart."

What's next? Flying after coronavirus: Health screenings in airports and emptier planes

More practically, he also acknowledged Southwest can’t cap ticket sales forever.

“Our breakeven load factor was somewhere in the 60-70% range. ... Can we do that indefinitely? No."

More: With 95% of flyers grounded, what it’s like flying in the U.S. right now?

Featured image by SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more