U.S. Airline Industry Steps Up Push for CDC to Cut Quarantine Time for Breakthrough Covid Cases, Warning of Labor Shortages

Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
  • A major U.S. airlines industry group asked the CDC to reduce its 10-day recommended quarantine for breakthrough Covid cases.
  • Airlines for America, which represents Southwest, American, United, Delta and others, warned that the current quarantine guidelines could cause labor shortages and disruptions.
  • Delta Air Lines sent its own letter about shortening quarantine requirements earlier this week.

A trade group representing major U.S. airlines urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halve its recommended quarantine time for individuals with breakthrough cases of Covid-19, warning the current 10 days could lead to labor shortages and flight disruptions.

"As with healthcare, police, fire and public transportation workforces, the Omicron surge may
exacerbate personnel shortages and create significant disruptions to our workforce and operations," Airlines for America CEO Nicholas Calio wrote in a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Thursday.

The letter, which echoes what Delta Air Lines wrote to Walensky on Tuesday, shows the airline industry's increasing concern about the impact of the guidelines as Covid cases, particularly of the omicron variant, increase around the country.

Airlines for America represents American, United, Delta, Southwest, FedEx, UPS and others.

The CDC didn't immediately comment.

Not everyone in the industry agrees with the push. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, the country's largest flight attendant union, wrote to Walensky on Thursday arguing in favor of the current recommendations.

"Staffing flights with crewmembers who may still be symptomatic, infectious, or both by shortening them on necessary isolation time will only make this situation worse," Nelson wrote. She said while the majority of flight attendants are vaccinated, some might not have received booster shots.

"Flight Attendants should not be expected to return to work until they test negative and do not exhibit symptoms," Nelson continued. "We do not know if 10 days represents that 'magic number,' but we do not see the justification for reducing the number of days at this time."

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