United Airlines
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

What is the Difference Between Self Health Assessments and Airline Security Questions?

“United Airlines today became the first major U.S. airline to ask all passengers to complete a health self-assessment during their check-in process. Based on recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic, the ‘Ready-to-Fly’ checklist asks customers to confirm they have not experienced COVID-19-related symptoms in the 14 days prior to flying.”

What is the Difference Between Self Health Assessments and Airline Security Questions?

United Airlines
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The paragraph you just read was from this official press release from United Airlines, which announced that passengers must verbally confirm each item in the following checklist, which will be added to the process of checking in for a flight prior to boarding the airplane, as you:

  • Must wear a face covering while on board for the safety of everyone.
  • Have not been diagnosed with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus within the last 21 days.
  • Have not experienced any of the following symptoms in the past 14 days — excludes symptoms from a pre-existing condition:
    • Temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or 100.4 degrees Fahreheit or higher
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or having difficulty breathing
    • Chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Sore throat
    • Recent loss of taste or smell
  • Have not been denied boarding by another airline due to a medical screening for a communicable disease within the last 14 days.
  • Have not had close contact with someone who tested positive for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus within the last 14 days.
United Airlines
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

“In accordance with guidance set forth by Cleveland Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), the Ready-to-Fly checklist requires customers to click ‘Accept’ to indicate they have reviewed the checklist during the digital check-in process on the United mobile app, United.com, on a United kiosk, or by reviewing and verbally confirming when checking-in with an agent at the airport to receive a boarding pass”, according to the aforementioned press release. “The checklist also affirms customers are willing to abide by the airline’s other safety protocols, including wearing a face covering, which is now mandatory for all employees and customers on board a United aircraft. Customers that are not able to confirm these requirements and choose not to travel will be able to reschedule their flight. Customers may also choose to check-in at the airport for further review.”

Some people question the efficacy of the process of self assessment of any kind as a requirement prior to engaging in business with a company.

“I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous such a screening is”, according to this article which was written by Joe Kurheg of Your Mileage May Vary. “What matter does it make how I answer the questions? If I’m feeling not so well but still get into my car, drive to the mall, check-in and get to the store, haven’t I already shown that I think I’m well enough to enter?”

Many companies have indeed started to require people to complete a self assessment health check prior to entering their establishments and conducting business. Like Joe Kurheg, I had to clear one of these self assessment health checks when going to an Apple Store with the power cord to my laptop computer, which easily frayed and should be an embarrassment to the company — especially as it was already replaced once free of charge for being defective — and an employee of that particular store pointing to a placard with a series of questions and had me reply “no” to each of them. Only after being given both a temperature scan and a mask was I was allowed to enter the store.

Frayed Apple power cord
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

At least half of the cord was so frayed in various places that I had to wrap it in electrical tape and seal it with shrink wrap. Apple, of course, would only replace the power cord if I paid full price: $79.00 plus tax — if I waited in line at the Apple Store for the privilege…

…but I verbally confirmed that I was healthy enough to wait in line, which I chose not to do.

The self assessment health check announced by United Airlines reminded me of a set of questions similar to the ones listed below which had to be verbally confirmed by passengers upon checking in for a flight prior to boarding an airplane for security reasons:

  • Did you pack your bags yourself?
  • Have your belongings been in your possession at all times?
  • Have you left your bags unattended at any time?
  • Has anyone asked you to carry anything on board for them?
  • Did anyone give you anything?


United Airlines
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I suppose that the airline has a implied record of confirmation from the passenger in the form of consent should anything go awry — otherwise, the aforementioned questions and checklists which are included in this article are based on little more than an honor system of sorts…

…and I am not sure that they are not nearly as effective as the entities which implemented them would like to think…

All photographs ©2016, ©2017, and ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

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