Modern air travel has frequently been cited as a leading cause for the rapid spread of disease within countries and internationally. The outbreaks of SARS, MERS, and Ebola have focused debate on a number of issues surrounding air travel, including isolation and quarantine, restrictions on travel, disease surveillance, screening protocols, contact tracing, and decontamination procedures. The issues and the lack of clarity surrounding them are the result of a number of factors, particularly confusion about the rights of travelers; lack of clarity and guidance on the powers and duties of airports and airlines; debates over the powers and duties of governments and public health officials; and insufficiently robust communication and coordination among local, state, national, and international stakeholders.
The objective of this research is to develop best practices for airport lawyers and managers that outline the legal rights, powers, and duties of an airport in addressing the spread of communicable diseases through air travel. The research will identify and describe the rights and obligations of additional stakeholders in response to the potential transmittal of disease, such as the World Health Organization, the U.S. CDC and other federal agencies, and state and local health and public safety organizations. The research will also set forth available options to address these issues under existing laws and policies, as well as potential opportunities to address inadequacies in the current legal landscape. Research will include but not be limited to a review of legal issues relating to isolation and quarantine, disease surveillance, screening protocols, contact tracing, and decontamination procedures, search and seizure, involuntary testing, denial of access (to the airport, to travel, etc.), and privacy and personal health information. The final product should be a form of playbook that allows airport attorneys, management, and staff to respond to a public health emergency in real time.