Dear Chair Cantwell, Ranking Member Cruz, Chair Graves, and Ranking Member Larsen:
As stakeholders in the organ donation and transplant community, we appreciate your leadership in including an organ transportation provision in the House and Senate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation to ensure lifesaving donor organs are transported safely, timely, and efficiently through our nation’s commercial airline system. We urge Congress to advance in any final FAA reauthorization bill a provision that requires federal rulemaking to enable the transportation of a donated organ in the passenger cabin instead of in the cargo hold of a commercial airplane.
As we shared in our June 2023 letter, before the attacks on September 11, organs intended for transplant traveled in the passenger cabin on commercial flights. Due to protocol changes after the September 11 attacks, unaccompanied organs were relegated to cargo and are still transported as such today.
The nature of organ donation and transplantation is time sensitive, and transporting organs by cargo involves time‐intensive logistical planning. Time‐limited organs must be transported at all hours of the day. For example, organs being transported by cargo often must be at the airport 60 to 120 minutes before departure. If an organ arrives at the airport after this cut off, the organ cannot be transported on that flight. Additionally, cargo offices have highly variable opening hours, and if an organ arrives at its destination, but the cargo office is closed, it cannot be collected by a courier. While not a common occurrence, logistical delays heighten the risk that an organ cannot be transplanted.
Ensuring that federal protocols are modernized to reduce the risk of damage or delay of donor organs will benefit transplant candidates and honor the lifesaving gifts of organ donors.
Thank you for your commitment to improving the nation's organ donation and transplantation system.
Sincerely, American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) American Foundation for Donation and Transplantation (AFDT) American Kidney Fund (AKF)