FAA Will Allow Airports to Conduct COVID-19 Health Screenings — and This Airport in Iowa Is Starting Soon

Suitcase, mask at airport

An airport in Iowa will begin a preflight COVID-19 health screening program for all passengers and staff next week after it got the OK from the Federal Aviation Administration, a unique undertaking among U.S. airports.

The Travel Well program, which will start on Jan. 25 and be run out of The Eastern Iowa Airport (CID) in Cedar Rapids, will require all outbound passengers and employees who work past the security checkpoint to answer a series of health questions and have their temperature taken. The screening is expected to take about 10 seconds per person.

If a passenger has a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or a recent exposure to COVID-19, they would be moved to a secondary screening and assessed by health professionals from the state's Mercy Medical Center.

The screening is finally getting off the ground after the FAA updated its guidance, allowing the airport to implement it, said Marty Lenss, the director of CID. The program was originally proposed in July. 

"Airports may voluntarily choose to take such actions in an attempt to jump-start and support the recovery of airport operations and airport services," the FAA wrote about health screenings as part of guidance it issued in December. "A multi-layered risk mitigation approach, recognizing the long-term benefits of ensuring the airport is self-sustaining, is vital to minimizing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring the recovery of the air transportation system."

The program is expected to be funded through a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) fund grant.

"The Travel Well program will provide an efficient approach to screening passengers and employees," Lenss said in a statement. 

The program will start just one day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention begin requiring all international travelers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding a flight to the U.S.

And while this is a first-of-its-kind program, there are several airports throughout the country that offer on-site coronavirus testing as well as airlines that offer testing options.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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