COVID-19 & ALABAMA AIRPORTS
The aviation industry has by and large been one of the hardest hit industries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Air travel is a very essential to the American way of life and the economy. For some airports/airfields, the road to recovery will be a long one. Personal health is now priority number one as the global pandemic has bought nations to a grinding halt. For those that are still travelling, what assurances do you have that your health is paramount?
Atlantic Aviation, one of the nation’s most popular FBO’s is committed to the safety and total, welfare, health, and comfort of its customers. Under the leadership of CEO Louis Pepper, Atlantic Aviation has taken extra steps to ensure customer and passenger health and safety protection. At Atlantic Aviation Birmingham (BHM) East/West, in compliance with Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s order, Atlantic has instituted new safety measures to deter and prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as suspending the self-serve coffee and popcorn machines. Patrons can still retrieve individually wrapped personal bags of microwave popcorn. In an official statement from Mr. Pepper of Atlantic Aviation:
We understand that private travel and aviation are both an essential engine of the economy and are vital to supporting the communities we serve, especially during these unprecedented times. Rest assured that we are doing all we can to ensure safe operations. With the threat of COVID-19, Atlantic has enhanced the disinfectant cleaning of our FBOs with special attention to public areas and employee community areas consistent with the latest guidance from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on hygiene and cleaning. This includes flight planning rooms, pilot’s lounges, conference rooms, employee break rooms, front counters, and passenger lobbies. We are closely monitoring the situation and complying with all recommendations from the CDC as well as following the guidance of local government and health officials. As always, Atlantic’s commitment to you and your safety is our top priority.
The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International airport, like most other major airports has seen a significant reduction in passenger traffic. Currently, only Great American Bagel is open. TSA is now allowing passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer, which is more than the standard 3.4 ounces of liquid. Surgical masks are also permitted during screening but must be temporarily removed at checkpoints so that TSA agents are able to verify identity.
Immediate measures currently being undertaken by BHM are the around the clock cleaning and sanitation efforts throughout the terminal. BHM is also working with a professional company to deep clean the terminal at night and be available to assist our staff with deeper cleanings as needed. Hand sanitizer stations will also be installed throughout the terminal for both passengers and employees to use. The BHM economy lot shuttles are cleaned and disinfected multiple times a day. Furthermore, Anti-COVID-19 signs have been added in the terminal with information on how to reduce the spread of the Corona virus. BHM CEO and President Ronald Mathieu in a public statement said:
The safety and security of the passengers and employees at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is a top priority. The Birmingham Airport Authority is actively monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and staying in close contact with public health agencies to have the latest updates on the spread of the virus and any potential impacts to our area.
Like many airports around the country, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is experiencing a reduction in passenger traffic as the concerns about the coronavirus have increased. Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is open and the airlines continue to operate.
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at BHM. We take the health and safety of our passengers and employees seriously, so we are taking proactive measures and are in close communication with our employees, airline partners, and tenants to reduce the risk of the spread of illnesses and impacts to the operations of the airport.
Since mid-March, at least 10 airport workers at Orlando International Airport tested positive for COVID-19. On April 6th, a third airport worker at Dallas Ft Worth International (DFW) tested positive for COVID-19. At this time of this revelation, TSA revealed that 56 TSA screening and 16 non-screening workers, including 15 at JFK. Because DFW is one of the busiest airports in the US, TSA shut down 7 of its 14 checkpoints as well as most of its concessions and restaurants. Forty-one pilots for American Airlines and 33 Southwest Airlines pilots to date have tested positive for COVID-19. One Philadelphia based flight attendant for American Airlines died from COVID-19 in March. American Airlines has since suspended food and beverages on its flights. Since the number of passengers on flights, passengers are drastically down, passengers are able to practice social distancing, by sitting more than 6 feet apart.
The Bessemer Airport (EKY) is also taking additional steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at its facility. Its staff conducts increased sanitation and deep cleaning procedures at its FBO. None of EKY’s personnel, nor anyone in its neighboring maintenance facilities and hangars have tested positive. Nor to the best of any staff member’s knowledge has anyone who has tested positive utilized its facility. EKY is operating in compliance with Governor Kay Ivey’s orders as well as those of Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley.
Mayor Gulley declared A State of Emergency in Bessemer on March 17 in response to COVID-19 efforts on the State of Alabama. In a written statement, Mayor Gulley stated, “The Jefferson County Department of Health has instituted guidelines prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more people and requesting gatherings of 10 or less to practice social-distancing of at least 6 feet. This includes churches and houses of worship.” The Bessemer Airport is practicing social distancing in according to the City of Bessemer and the State of Alabama. Mayor Gulley ordered all non-essential businesses to close their doors at 5:00 P.M. However, because EKY is essential, it remains open until 6 P.M. If utilizing the Bessemer Airport, one can expect to wash hands constantly or use hand sanitizer if washing is not possible, stay at least six (6) feet away from others if possible, and avoid shaking hands and make sure all coughing and sneezing is covered completely.
In a public statement, says Chris Curry, President Mobile Airport Authority stated that, “The safety of our customers and employees is a top priority. We will monitor information on a daily basis and implement safety measures as directed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health organizations”. In addition to this, the MAA has an Airport Communicable Disease Response Plan that has recently been updated. It provides the basis for a multi-agency response to a public health disaster/emergency at either Airport. The Plan is reviewed and updated annually. Partners include the Mobile County Health Department, Mobile Police Department, Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, Mobile County Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, and U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection.
Rick Tucker, CEO of Huntsville International Airport (HSV), met with key administration officials in Washington D.C. to discuss measures underway to protect the traveling public and airport employees from the spread of COVID-19. Airport traffic is now down to on average, 100 a day, a 10th of its normal numbers. On average, each departing flight has about four passengers. Airport staff has been reduced and employees are now working on two shifts. Most restaurants are closed. Just as with other airports and FBO’s, HSV has increased its sanitation efforts and has passed out small bottles of hand sanitizer.
North of Huntsville, operating out of Nashville, Tennessee, Signature FBO has taken heightened measures to counter the pandemic. Utilizing Signature, passengers can expect to encounter the following detailed protocol. Increased cleaning procedures at all locations, with a focus on common use and public areas, Updating business continuity plans for all locations with potential scenarios that may impact base operations, reflecting the latest guidance from health, airport and government authorities, temporarily suspended dish and tableware cleaning services, and instead are providing disposable options, stopped valet services, except for customers with disabilities, revised our van shuttle service procedures, limiting the number of passengers to enable increased social distancing, started offering exclusively pre-packaged snack items, removed linens, literature, and most food service items from public and crew areas, modified the common area seating arrangements within our FBOs to accommodate greater distancing where possible, as well as implementing a rigorous cleaning schedule for furniture, counters, and other touch points, recommended submitting reservations through the Signature Loyalty portal, through a base e-mail address, over an ARINC frequency, or via phone.
Numerous airports and FBO’s are taking very aggressive steps and implementing effective measures to confront and counter this global pandemic that has brought the airline industry seemingly to a grinding halt. Most are acting within the federal guidelines, as well as those of their perspective states and municipalities. When the national travel ban and stay at home orders are lifted, the airline industry will return to some degree of normalcy although at a slow pace. However, the airlines and airports are to committed to fighting the virus, because after all we’re in this together.