On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd pressed Doctor Fauci about the potential for a vaccine mandate for domestic travel, and he, once again, hedged his answer, cracking the door open ever so slightly for the possibility. However, despite Fauci’s caginess, a domestic vaccine mandate for air travel will never, ever happen.
As Fauci’s interview with Todd wound to a close he was hit with a final question: “Is a vaccine mandate under consideration for domestic air travel?”
Fauci’s answer was no surprise in light of previous public comments on the issue: “Nothing has been taking off the table.”
After opining a bit about mask fines being doubled he was pressed again by Todd: “Does that mean it’s something that could happen or is based on how long this fourth surge lasts?”
Fauci again noted that nothing has been decided yet, and that certainly the degree of infection influences the decision, so “suffice to say, it’s still on the table, right now.”
Here’s the clip, tweeted by Meet the Press:
Despite Fauci’s hedging (and likely desire to implement such a mandate), we believe that such a mandate – for domestic travel anyway – is highly unlikely.
A domestic travel mandate is strongly opposed by the travel industry who feels it could suck the wind out of the recovering travel business, a business that was gutted by COVID-19, lockdowns, the overnight ceasing of business travel, and related consequences.
Airplane mask mandates have been a key staple during the coronavirus pandemic and remain in effect, despite the tremendous rise in in-flight incidents which are often related to face masks.
The FAA has reported in August that it had received almost 4,000 cases of in-flight incidents, a dramatic rise from previous years.
In fact, the FAA recently doubled the fines for in-flight infractions and has already doled out over $1m in fines this year so far.
The tension in the air (pardon the pun) is one of several reasons why we simply don’t see a scenario where a vaccine mandate is enacted for domestic travel. Never mind the likely loss of unvaccinated passengers who wouldn’t travel, the potential further increase of in-flight incidents is too great a risk. If we can’t get masks right, how do y’all think vaccine mandates will go? Ready the fireworks.
Despite the overall travel industry’s opposition to domestic air travel some airlines, however, have implemented their own vaccine mandate for employees with some early success. For example, United Airlines implemented a mandate for their employees and is already reporting over 90% compliance.
The Biden Administration also recently announced a national vaccine mandate for businesses with employees greater than 100. The legality of this matter is under some scrutiny (to say the least), but the mantle has been thrown down as the Biden Administration takes a tougher stance on the vaccine.
This brings us to our second, and strongest reason why a domestic travel vaccine mandate will never happen: there just isn’t a need for it.
Air travel is already extremely safe. From mask mandates, the air purification systems there really isn’t a medical reason to implement such a mandate. At least, that is, if the purpose of the mandate would be to minimize in-flight infections, versus the spread of the virus by people leaving one locale and bringing the virus to another locale.
And, with around 64% of the population already vaccinated, the actual need for such a mandate is minimized. In fact, one report (that I can no longer find…so take this with a grain of salt) suggests that with the vaccination rates being what they are AND the number of people who’ve had COVID-19, and thus have antibodies, mean we are getting closer to herd immunity, theoretically making a domestic travel vaccine mandate moot.
If you recall, the original targets for herd immunity suggested 67% vaccinated was necessary. However, with the more transmissible Delta variant, experts have suggested it may need to be as high as 80%.
Bottom line: A domestic travel vaccine mandate will never happen. America will lose its crap again, and it’s probably not needed given other measures underway. To implement such a mandate would simply be poking the bear.
An international travel vaccine mandate, for guests traveling to the United States, is far more likely, although this is also tricky water although the Biden Administration did reverse course on requiring vaccines for immigrants thereby removing one potential optics obstacle for an international travel vaccine mandate.
How about you? What’s the likelihood of a domestic air travel mandate happening? What would your reaction be?
PS, lest you are unclear on my position on these matters, here it is:
- I am fully vaccinated
- I don’t support a domestic vaccine mandate for air travel
- I don’t support a vaccine mandate at all – for Americans (although I do think there is some legal precedence for such a thing)
- I do think people should take the vaccine, although I understand why some people choose not to
- I do support a vaccine mandate for incoming visitors
- I hate wearing a face mask on a plane (and think it’s unnecesary at this point in time), but I am ok with it and have managed to avoid an in-flight incident during my travels in the last 18 months…because…wait for it…I am a rational human being and don’t mind following the rules. Besides, the FAs can’t do anything about it…why get pissed at them? Stupid…
- I am not a doctor, nor a medical expert, nor a Lawyer, nor have I played any of these roles on TV. Just an American with an opinion and a blog. Take my comments for what they are worth. Not much.