Thursday, April 30, 2009
Vice President Joe Biden, discussing the spread of swine flu, said Thursday morning that he would advise against traveling in an airplane or in any confined space — a comment that an airline spokesman said borders on “fearmongering.”
“To suggest that people not fly at this stage of things is a broad brush stroke bordering on fearmongering,” American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said. “The facts of the situation at this stage anyway certainly don’t support that.”
Roughly 250,000 passengers use American Airlines daily, and not a single one of them has tested positive for swine flu, Smith said.
Biden, a longtime Amtrak rider who commuted daily between Delaware and Washington for decades, said on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday morning that he wouldn’t necessarily advise family members not to travel to Mexico, but “I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places right now.
“It’s not … going to Mexico, it’s that you are in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes, it goes everywhere through the aircraft. That’s me.
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“I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway,” Biden said. “So from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you’re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft, a closed container, closed car, a closed classroom, it’s a different thing.”
Biden made his comments the morning after President Obama told the nation not to panic and to continue their daily routine, taking logical precautions such as washing hands frequently and staying home if you’re sick. His remarks brought a quick rebuke from at least one airline, mass-transportation industries and industry trade organizations.
James May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of America, the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, said Biden’s comments were “extremely disappointing.”
“Vice President Biden’s comment that people should avoid air travel in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak was extremely disappointing,” May said in a statement. “The airlines have been working daily with government agencies, none of whom suggest people avoid air travel, unless they are not feeling well. The fact is that the air onboard a commercial aircraft is cleaner than that in most public buildings.”
Aaron Donovan, deputy press secretary for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates New York’s bus, subway and commuter rail system, said both New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the MTA’s executive director rode the subway Wednesday morning to assuage any fears riders may have.
“There is no reason to stay off the subway,” Donovan said in statement to FOXNews.com.
This article was posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm