Travel Safety & Security Update November 2005.

Position:Air travel

Avian flu fears overblown, experts say. Experts say there is little proof that migratory wild birds will spread avian flu across the world and the chances of the birds infecting humans are quite slim. Still, highly publicized concerns about avian flu demonstrate how fear can inhibit defenses, Mick Farren writes in a Los Angeles Times commentary. Farren believes "scare tactics" may push the public to strategies that will not work. "To rely on, and even budget for, quarantine plans in a globalized world edges toward absurdity," ATA's May says no need to panic over avian flu: While measured preparation for a possible avian flu pandemic is a responsible course of action, travelers should use common sense when weighing the threat avian flu poses to air travel, Air Transport Association CEO James May writes in this Aviation Daily commentary. "Neither the CDC nor the World Health Organization has recommended that the public avoid traveling to any of the countries affected by the avian flu," May writes. Nov 29, 2005

FAA to remain "vigilant": The relative safety of air travel is a credit to the Federal Aviation Administration and the manner in which it has changed its oversight practices to evolve with the airline industry, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey writes in this USA TODAY commentary. "Nearly a decade ago, the FAA took bold steps to move away from a "checklist" approach toward a risk-based system that emphasizes quality assurance programs and self-audits," Blakey writes. Nov 29, 2005

FAA's Blakey asks for mediation in controller talks. Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Marion C. Blakey says contract talks with the union representing air traffic controllers are near an impasse. The union said the two sides are making progress, but Blakey has asked for mediation. The two sides are at odds over pay rates, among other things. Nov 29, 2005

CDC's proposal to change quarantine rules could affect carriers. Federal officials are proposing changes to quarantine rules that will expand the definition of reportable illnesses and require airlines to submit passenger lists to health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the plan could cost airlines hundreds of millions of dollars. The Air Transport Association agrees that current rules should be updated. "To what extent changes need to be made to existing practices will be done cooperatively with the CDC through this proposed rule making," the ATA said. Nov 23, 2005

Aircraft cabins won't make travelers ill, carriers say: It is unclear whether air travel contributes to the spread of respiratory illnesses, doctors say. Some doctors say sitting next to a sick person can cause a traveler to become ill, but airlines point out that aircraft cabins are not more dangerous than other crowded spaces. "There is nothing about aircraft cabin environment that makes it any easier to catch an illness from other people." said Katherine Andrus, the Air Transport Association's assistant general counsel. Nov 23, 2005

DHS has not completed threat database. Department of Homeland Security officials do not know when they will finish assembling a national asset and threat database. The database will list potential terrorist targets. Some lawmakers say they are frustrated with the slow pace of the database's development. Nov 23, 2005

Authorities to adopt new safety measures at Boston's Logan. The Massachusetts Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration have agreed on changes to prevent runway incidents at Boston's Logan International Airport. They will limit planes taking off from runways that are not part of usual takeoff patterns and require more training for air traffic controllers, among other things. They will also acquire a simulator representing Logan's runways and taxiways. Nov 23, 2005

Bird flu fears may not be necessary. As fears of a bird flu pandemic rise, experts say a worldwide threat won't occur unless the virus gains the ability to spread easily between people, and they emphasize that it may not even happen with the current H5N1 bird flu strain. World Health Organization scientists say that among the three things that need to happen for a pandemic to start -- first, the existence of a new substrain of the flu virus, second, the spread to humans to cause illness, and third, the easy spread between people -- only the first two steps have occurred in Asia, and there is currently no bird flu pandemic in the world. Nov 22, 2005

CDC adds quarantine stations to prevent possible spread of bird flu: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has opened 10 new quarantine stations at entry points to the U.S. to screen people for communicable diseases. The CDC now has officers at 17 airports on alert for travelers with the avian influenza virus. The virus is not yet transmitted between people. One scientist said the chance of the flu mutating into a highly contagious human strain is relatively small, but noted the disease would spread quickly if a mutation occurs. Nov 22, 2005

Avian flu: A call for precaution, not panic: Air Transport Association President & CEO James C. May writes that while we should take the possibility of a pandemic seriously and prepare ourselves for an unlikely outbreak, there is no need to panic. Nov 22, 2005

Confiscated items help state generate revenue. Oregon's State Surplus Program is selling lighters and cigarette lighters confiscated from airline passengers...

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