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21 SESSIONÂ 4Â AirportÂ CaseÂ StudiesÂ andÂ BestÂ PracticesÂ Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, St. Louis Lambert International Airport and Chair, ACRP Oversight Committee, Moderator PresentersÂ Lance Lyttle, SeattleâTacoma International Airport Joseph Lopano, Tampa International Airport Kirk Hotelling, American Airlines Andrew Boyett, Southwest Airlines Joe Thornton, HMSHost Rob Mitchell, Uber Daniel Price, Transportation Security Agency Rhonda HammâNiebruegge introduced the next segment, which is the airportâs perspective with Lance Lyttle, Managing Director, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), and Joseph Lopano, Chief Executive Officer, Tampa International Airport. Both Lyttle and Lopano presented current practices implemented at their respective airports, including observations of immediate actions to take and how to lead the recovery effort. They both experienced the reduction in flights, subsequent retail closings, and employee furloughs and layoffs. Some temporary solutions included a hiring freeze and reduction on capital projects, though they found this is an optimal time to move forward on funded projects with limited activity in their airports. They both are working with industry associations to ensure there is adequate federal funding available and are keeping communication channels open within and outside their airports. A significant effort toward increased sanitation was implemented, as were telework options for their employees where possible. Both passenger and employee confidence is sought to bring the activity level back. AirportsâExecutiveâLevelÂ DiscussionÂ ofÂ CurrentÂ andÂ FutureÂ PlansÂ Â Lance Lyttle, SeattleâTacoma International Airport Joseph Lopano, Tampa International Airport Lance Lyttle began by stating that when SEA was faced with the COVID-19 crisis, SEAasked three questions: (1) What do we need to do immediately to weather the storm? (2) What do we need to do to lead the recovery effort? (3) What do we need to do to move forward? They came up with a three-phase approach to address the COVID-19 pandemic. First, he stated, they looked at what they needed to do immediately, for themselves and their
22 tenants, to help get through this crisis. They also understood that, at some point in time, there is going to be a recovery effort and that they wanted to be a part of leading this effort. After they looked at what they needed to do, they came up with their âFlyHealthy@SEAâ program. He added they wanted to ensure they remained ahead of the curve when the traffic started coming back, knowing this recovery would probably take much longer than before. He stated that the aviation industry has always been resilient and will recover at some point in time. Lyttle stated they were only seeing approximately 2,500 to 3,000 passengers coming through a checkpoint during the height of this crisis, compared with 55,000 to 60,000 people coming through previously. He added that their airport dining and retail program had massive closuresâ60 out of almost 90 concession units closed. There were a lot of layoffs impacting the airports and regional staff, with about a 95% reduction in overall traffic at the airport, which, he said, âis extremely devastating.â Some of the immediate actions they undertook were to implement a hiring freeze with a focus on cash flow and a limit on any discretionary spending, to include traveling. They looked for anything they did not have to do in their 2020 budget. In reviewing their capital projects, of the two categoriesâ(1) the cash-funded projects and (2) the bond-funded projectsâthey decided to move forward with the bond-funded projects if they could do them in a safe manner because that would not impact their cash flow. To preserve their cash, there were several cash-funded projects ($28 million) that they decided to defer. There were also some projects that they decided to move on with because they are security or safety related. They deferred the minimum annual guarantee for nearly all of their tenants at the airport, whether it was the airlines, concessionaires, taxi operators, or rental car companies. He added that this was their way of helping them to preserve their cash flow during this crisis. Lyttle added that he believed, as mentioned by Dow, that the industry had $10 billion in the initial package of the CARES Act, which did not actually include airports. So they worked with Airport Council International (ACI), American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and very closely with the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) to get funding into the Act. He and about nine other airport directors flew to Washington, D.C., in the middle of the crisis and met with the White House staff to stress how critical this was. The industry was fortunate to then receive the $10 billion. SEA received $192 million, although this was still not enough for the $250 million deficit that it had in revenues; but, Lyttle stated, it still goes a long way. He added that they focused on the things that could be immediately implemented to get them through, such as teleworking for employees who could work from home and having only essential people working at the airport. Lyttle described the next phase, which was leading the recovery. They established some guidelines and goals, including maintaining a safe and healthy environment and restoring confidence in travel, as mentioned by Dow earlier. In addition to restoring the confidence of the traveling public, it was important to restore and maintain the confidence of the airport employees, tenants, and contractors. They had to be confident that the airport is a safe and healthy environment not just for travelers and that the enthusiasm that they had
23 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was there to get the passenger volume back. Lyttle stated, âWe have to get passenger volume back, no matter what we do. If we donât have people traveling again, then weâre going to be in dire straits.â Â Lyttle further stated that they had a three-pronged approach: industry, corporate, and actions that were specific to SEA. On the industry side, they have two members of their team that are part of the Airports Council International (ACI) World task team that looks at what needs to be done industrywide and worldwide to restore passenger confidence for travel and establish aviation industry standards. At SEA, in addition to aviation, as a port, they also have maritime and economic development as well. Lyttle went on to say that their chief operating officer is coordinating the effort at the corporate level about when to bring people safely back to the airport. He mentioned that they have specific activities that they are doing at SEA and showed a snapshot of the organizational chart that they put together to show the effort with their subcommittees. He indicated that there is a group that focuses on health and public policies. In addition, they have a group that focuses on their partners with the airline, rental car companies, and taxi operators. Furthermore, they have a group that focuses on the customer, customer feedback, and changes that must be made in the terminal and in the corporate and industry effort. He stated that communication is very important. Lyttle expressed that it is important to have engagement and collaboration with other entities while looking at the return of travelers coming through the airport. Considerations include what needs to be done to maintain social distance, how best to promote a touchless experience, and who needs to be involved; such efforts cannot be done alone at the airport. Lyttle said, âYou need the ground transportation, taxi and TNC [transportation network company] operators, the limousine drivers, the airlines, TSA, CBP [Customs and Border Protection], and CDC to participate as well as airport dining and retail.â He expressed that they need representatives from each of these groups throughout the airport to participate. Lyttle emphasized that they have a multilayered approach and that there is no one solution. They are doing multiple efforts to enhance cleaning, especially the various different touch points throughout the airport. He mentioned terminal improvements, such as signage and announcements by employees that remind people about social distancing. They recently passed the official policy of requiring everyone at the airport to wear a facial covering whether they are staff, a tenant, or a passenger. He showed some examples of practices implemented at SEA, such as the floor cards and sneeze guards at the common use ticket area counters and seating spacing markers and floor cards for physical distancing in the train boarding areas. Lyttle mentioned again that communications, both internal and external, are extremely important and that when the COVID-19 pandemic started, they had daily e-mail notifications with corporate to communicate throughout the entire port. They are still continuing that three times a week. For the airport specifically, they have a weekly e-mail sent out to let their employees know exactly what is currently happening. In addition, they are sending out a biweekly live broadcast featuring Lyttle and other members of the management team answering questions and presenting information on their efforts and allowing for a Q&A session.
24 Lyttle further stated that external communication to the public and information to the passengers are extremely important, so his public affairs team has been working closely with print media, TV, and social media to get its message out. Lyttle described some of the issues that SEA is facing and indicated that their commission just recently passed a motion to come up with a plan for temperature checks at the airport. He indicated that partnerships are important and, although it is not their area of expertise, it will be important to rely heavily on the subject matter experts such as the CDC, the state department of health, the county department of health, and CBP (for international arrivals). He referred to Dow regarding consistency across the nation and said he believed that the federal government has to take measures to have a standard across airports. He felt that this is going to be important for restoring passenger confidence. Lyttle indicated that SEA is going to continue to adhere to the CDC guidelines and that they consider the CDC to be the subject matter experts. He continued that, their innovations team, led by Innovation Director, Dave Wilson, is looking at everything, including doing its due diligence by investigating the feasibility of temperature sensors. He indicated that they are aware of issues with accuracy and false positives and are exploring true ultraviolet light cleaning, as mentioned by Godwin. He added that they are also exploring physical distance sensors, with the understanding that enforcement will be a challenge and are looking at health certificates. He indicated that privacy issues associated with this can be very controversial and added that they are heavily invested in touchless technology on the basis of feedback that they received from the subject matter experts on the medical and operational side. He added that they have tested this on international departures and are exploring it again, as well as the equity and privacy issues associated with it. They are exploring capacitive sensors as an example of a device that can be âtouchedâ without using your hand and using stylists to touch and connect. They are also looking at voice recognition for the touchless process, whether it is an elevator or some other device. Finally, they are considering near-field communication and radio frequency identification (RFID), such as Apple Pay. Their innovations team is looking at, and doing its due diligence on, all these technologies to enhance the touchless experience going forward. Lyttle summarized by stating that SEA has a solid plan right now and has established a great framework, but indicated that it is uncharted territory and there is no benchmark, since there is no reference point compared with what airports did before. He said he realizes that they do not have the answers to everything and are making decisions based on assumptions about decision dates and data that they do not have now. He realizes that they do not know what is going to happen in the future. He added that, what they do know is that they are going to prioritize and invest heavily in technology. They are anticipating emerging policies at the state, federal, local, and county levels as well. He stated that they will have to gather feedback and make the adjustments as they go along and are going to continue to communicate internally and externally, which is important to the passengers and also to their employees and tenants to make sure they are kept in the loop.
25 Lyttle ended by saying, âThis is a new world, and I donât think we can look at the traditional way how we solve problems or how we operated, and we will have to innovate our way out of this crisis.â HammâNiebruegge then introduced Joseph Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport (TPA). He stated that TPA has started a program called âTPA Ready.â Lopano said he served on the governor of Floridaâs Task Force for reopening the state, which started on April 22, 2020, and was joined by representatives from Universal Studios and Walmart. They discussed the different methods they employed in order to keep their customers safe. He said they started âTPA Readyâ knowing that they were going to be reopening the state at some point. He said that âit was really a project of hope because up until that time, it seemed almost hopeless.â He added that they were seeing their passenger numbers go down and looking at deserted terminals. Their employees were really motivated and started thinking that something positive could happen by creating this program. He elaborated that first they got word out to the public with five different elements. Lopano said that the first element of the name âTPA Readyâ really says the whole story, as it tells the customers that their employees are ready. They wanted to prioritize the health and safety not only of travelers but also for their team, so making sure the facilities were safe and clean for the team and travelers were priorities. Lopano said, âNumber two was clear communications. As someone said earlier, lack of good communications results in bad communications and you have to fill that with accurate and clear communications, especially with your employees.â He added, âespecially frontline employeesâtheyâre stressed out, they have a lot of worries, and you have to communicate with them often and accurately.â Lopano stated that the third element was organizational resilience, and shortly after March 15, 2020, they started remote work. This taught them a lot, since remote work was something that they had talked about and were prepared for, but nobody wanted to try it. The fourth element was strengthening the business, and they did a lot of things that Lyttle talked about. They had a hiring freeze and deferred some projects and received $80 million through the CARES Act. While he indicated that this helps, they were still going to be short on revenue by $240 million dollars over the next 4 years. He referred to Dow and said they will still need more help to get through the storm. TPA increased its lines of credit and deferred some projects but also accelerated some as well. Lopano indicated that TPA is an engine for economic recovery and understands its role in the community. It has to serve its stakeholders and, to the extent that it can keep projects going, is going to find a way to keep especially small contractors on the job. Lopano added that TPA currently has 250 acrylic barriers and has 2,700 ground markings and stanchion banners to keep people safely apart that say âLeave Space Stay Safe.â They have 3,500 seat wraps to keep people apart, as well as nearly 100 hand sanitizer stations. On April 20, they added mask requirements for all employees, including all tenants, such as airlines, concessionaires, and others. He stated that they have encouraged other customers to also wear masks. They also increased sanitation using the latest technology, such as
26 electronic foggers. They strongly urged the public to wear masks and arrive 2 hours early. They encouraged mobile check-in and carry-on luggage to reduce touch points and thus avoid going to the ticket counter to check in or use baggage claim to pick up bags. Lopano stated they used to allow meeters and greeters to come into the main terminal and meet their guests. They are now requiring them to stay outside in the cell phone line. He reiterated that the main theme, as others have said, is to restore confidence. The key is communication, and he said, We are ready for travel to commence, a message that was picked up by everybody. We werenât the only ones looking for hopeâeverybody was looking for hope. . . . So we were very surprisedâNBC Nightly News with Lester Holt had us on, and it was a good interview. We were also picked up by the Washington Post and Telemundo Hispanic stations. The important message is that you have to get this word out to your internal audience, your employees, your government officials, and do so in a way that it becomes a national story. If you can, it is whatâs going to make people confident to come back to travel. They know that everyone along the way is doing their part and the airportâs a big part of that journey. Lopano said that he also informs and engages his team with weekly videos, noting it is critical to make sure that they are communicating accurate and reliable data because, he said, âthis is peopleâs livelihoods. This is their job and they spend a lot of time each week here and are working the frontlines, so it is important to make sure they know whatâs going on.â He stated that they will continue with weekly communications and that they also started a new effort called âTPA TVâ and are using a lot of technologies that they might not have otherwise used. Lopano elaborated on TPAâs remote work for nonessential employees that started on March 15, 2020, and was prepared with the information technology (IT) department. IT staff purchased certain IT components that would allow for this, but they just were not sure they were ever going to do it. He said, âEverybody learned how to use Microsoft Teams or Zoom and itâs really, really changed our culture.â He added that they have increased communications and have given out care packages with masks, hand sanitizers, and touchless keys for all employees. They are also looking at staggered work shifts, which they have already implemented for frontline workers, with 1 week on/1 week off to help prevent the spread of the virus. He added that they are developing the workspace of tomorrow. They are in the middle of building a 300,000 square-foot, nine-story office center; three floors will be for their office planners. They had their office planners look at various seating options and cubicles and then found out they can work from home (or anywhere they choose) just as easily and effectively. This has changed their thinking on what this new office center should look like. While they had a culture of people that were used to their offices and were considered important if they had an office, they realized they would have to change their thought process and be open to ideas about how people could work remotely using this new technology. Many people said they would rather just work remotely if possible. The timing is fortunate, as they are now in the middle of changing the interior structures of this building to account for the new normal.
27 On a positive note, Lopano stated that they were able to advance $150 million in capital projects with the limited activity and work during the day and close roadways. They are in the middle of a $700 million upgrade, which includes new remote curbsides, roadway expansion, taxiway improvements, and the sky center office building. He added that the ticket level upgrades were going to be done at night and that now they have been able to work 24/7, bringing them way ahead of schedule. Lopano stated that TPA is happy to see that, week over week, passenger traffic is increasing and airlines are making commitments for much more flight activity, a very encouraging sign. The airport is also reevaluating its budget and has gone to relief efforts for its tenants and deferred rents for its concessionaires, rental car companies, and airlines, who it realizes need help; TPA will help to the extent it can. Lopano stated that they are going to continue benchmarking and looking for best practices and said, âWe do need industry standards so that we can ensure a consistently safe experience,â as stated earlier in the Health Update. He also indicated that they are in a position for a long-term recovery, as they are in a great economic area in the Tampa Bay region. He concluded by stating that âTampa Bay region was smoking before this, and weâre going to get back to it pretty soon.â AirportÂ CaseÂ StudiesÂ andÂ BestÂ PracticesÂ Q&AÂ Â Â Rhonda HammâNiebruegge asked, âWe all know that the CARES Act required that we keep 90% of our employees on the payroll. Has that been a hamper to the airport, based on the financial challenges that we are all facing, and should that have been a piece of the CARES Actâ? Joseph Lopano responded by stating he did not think it is hampering them. They are constantly rated as one of the best airports in the country because of their great facilities, but more so because of the great people who work at the airport. He stated that they are going to come back, and they are going to rebound. While they may not rebound this year to where they were, they will eventually rebound. He added that he plans on keeping his team together and, to the extent that they can, they are going to keep everybody on board and grow back to where they were before. Lance Lyttle added that it is the same for SEA and that the CARES Act requirements are not hampering him either. He said that âin fact, that was our intention, even without the stipulations associated with the CARES Act.â HammâNiebruegge asked Lyttle if he had to delay any safety-related projects. Lyttle responded by saying, âNo, . . . we categorized the projects in terms of bond-funded and cash-funded projects and, on the cash-funded side, the projects that are safety related and security related, we moved forward.â They also looked at projects that need to be done to lead the recovery effort to keep people employed, especially the ones that can be done
28 safely adhering to the state guidelines. He summed up by saying, âThere were no safety or security projects that were actually deferred as part of this.â Lopano agreed that it was the same for him and stated that TPA was able to defer about $100 million dollars in projects, but, at the same time, was careful to look for opportunities to accelerate projects, which turned out to be a good exercise. Lyttle added that it was the same thing with SEAâs international arrival facility, where they could shut the taxiway down to accelerate construction and had opportunities to accelerate several other projects because of the lull in traffic. HammâNiebruegge asked, âWe all talked about the communication effort and how important that is, but there can be overcommunication. And do people become tone deaf to the important pieces of communication if thereâs so much of it?â Lopano responded, âI think itâs critical to make your messages relevant, so they have to be timed well and canât be overcommunicated. When they are communicated, it is important to make sure that the content is meaningful for folks to absorb. If youâre just doing videos for the sake of doing videos, people arenât going to open the e-mail.â Lyttle responded, âAs I said in the presentation, on a weekly basis, we send an e-mail out just keeping people informed of the realityâgood, bad, or otherwise. Every message has a ray of hope in there.â He stated further that, as Godwin mentioned, they need to continue flattening the curve, even with concessions reopening, etc. Every other week, they have a live, interactive broadcast, rather than just an e-mail. This broadcast goes to the entire team, and anybody across the airport can ask questions about what is happening, including him or other members of his management team. This is on-the-spot, live communication that has been very successful, with a lot of participation by his staff. HammâNiebruegge posed the last question to Lopano: âYou mentioned that youâre redesigning your new employment center and thinking about the future and remote work. When you talk about having that team that is interactive, gets along so well, and brings good ratings to TPA, how do you balance the concept of people working from home and losing that interactivity among employees, so that you know each other? What does that do to the business traffic if people donât come back to work because they have become so used to working remotely? So itâs a dual edge, not only for internal employees, but for the business traffic that we so desperately need.â Lopano responded, âI think the balance is that people can work remotely if they can, but even those that prefer working remotely have a need for social interaction. So they will have a place at the office to come [to] and can work from the office in a shared space. What we found is that as long as you have a laptop, you can be working from a coffee shop or anywhere else. And youâre being productive, youâre getting the job done. I think that thereâs going to be both. Thereâs going to be some portions of remote, but thereâs always going to be that social need.â He added that as far as the business traveler goes, he believed âthat once you have a vaccine, people will want to go back to the way it was, which is face-to- face, maybe some [working] remotely, but there'âs a need for both of those things.â
29 Lyttle responded that just before the pandemic started, SEA began a pilot project for remote working, because it was running out of office space at the airport. He added that the intention is to have people do a mix of work. He and his staff have done surveys with staff that show while people enjoy working at home, they actually miss that social interaction of being at the office. He added that, with regard to the business travelers, nobody knows exactly how fast the recovery will be, but that there are certain areas around the world where having a meeting via video conferencing is not part of the culture and there is a need to be there in person. Lyttle believed that would probably spur or continue to spur business travel in certain parts of the world or where having a meeting via video conferencing would not work. However, a lot of people realize remote work is effective. This may have an impact on how business travel takes place going forward, but it has yet to be seen how it will pan out. Â AirlinesâDiscussionÂ andÂ HighlightsÂ ofÂ WhatÂ PlansÂ AreÂ inÂ PlaceÂ Kurt Hotelling, American Airlines Andrew Boyett, Southwest Airlines Rhonda HammâNiebruegge introduced Kurt Hotelling, Vice President, Airport Affairs and Facilities, American Airlines, and Andrew Boyett, Senior Manager, Customer Experience, Southwest Airlines. Both Hotelling and Boyett expressed the significant downturn in their passenger activity and subsequent financial losses. Airlines are working collectively with each other and the industry to implement guidelines and follow practices to get the traveling public back and both Hotelling and Boyett detailed ways airlines are providing a safe and healthy operating environment. Each speaker highlighted his respective airlineâs sanitation and operating procedures to ensure appropriate face coverings and safe distance requirements. Hotelling explained why, coming from an airline, he began his presentation showing an image of a boat and referenced the old adage âof a rising tide lifts all boats.â He indicated that both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines provide particular policies and strategies to get through this pandemic and said that the public could easily be getting the same information from other airlines. Hotelling made the point that âWe are not trying to compete with each other in this arena. We compete with each other on many things, but in this, we all benefit from each otherâs policies in creating a safer environment in our airports, on our aircraft, and in the policies that we implement for our team members.â Hotelling stated that some of the things that American is doing are not unique to American and can easily apply to anyone else. Andrew Boyett stated that in hearing from Dow earlier, mentioning how to bring the industry back together again, Boyett said it is a team effort and that airlines cannot do this alone. He continued that, âThere is no silver bullet, there is no solution that airlines can put in place to get customers to come back. It has to be a collaborative, multilayer, data-driven approach between the regulatory environment or public health officials. In addition, it also
30 involves the collegial attitude between the airlines to coordinate and cooperate and how we get air travel to come back.â Hotelling stated that, so far this year, there has been an impact on passenger volumes from the Pacific region, as China went through this crisis, and then, in March, Italyâs crisis impacted the industry as well. He added that there was a little upward trend in passenger volumes in May. Hotelling continued with another slide from his presentation depicting the numbers of aircraft operations and stated that they are all collectively running about 70% fewer operations than in 2019, which is significantly less (see Slide 4 https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/acrp/InsightEvents/COVID19/KHotelling.pdf). He pointed out that, currently, the lines in the graph are still flat, but said he believed that the number of operations is ticking up in June and will continue further into July and, hopefully, throughout the year, subject to demand. He showed another slide showing the average domestic U.S. flight is carrying about 47 people; the numbers earlier this year would have been double that on many more flights. Hotellingâs next slide depicted passenger traffic and demand and acknowledged that there is a demand-driven problem. This problem is not the same change in passenger traffic and demand that the industry has faced over the past 10 years. He added that before COVID, they went through a lot of consolidation and fixed some of the underlying structural problems of the airline industry, and with what they are doing now and in light of what the other panelists have talked about, they are working to get these curves moving in the right direction. Boyett added that they want their curves to be flat, they need to come back up into positive growth, and they are all very hesitant to be optimistic. He indicated that they see that first movement and beginning to tick up and are excited to see an increase in passenger activity in some recent polling. For the first time since the beginning of this crisis, people who said they were comfortable flying ticked just above the number of people who said they were not comfortable flying. He added that while this is not a wide margin, it is encouraging, and they are starting to see the curve moving up. Hotelling responded that he believed that he has seen some recent reports that Delta added 100 new flights back in June over its original pre-COVID schedule, which it would not do unless it saw demand for these flights, which he added was encouraging. He continued with describing Americaâs guiding principles and indicated that all of the airlines have something similar. Their priority is to put out their new policies and procedures about keeping the safety and well-being of their customers and team members as their top priority and minimizing the risk to the traveling public and to their team members. Hotelling added that the approaches are changing and have changed since March. He reiterated that states have responsibility for putting out much of the guidance and guidelines that the airlines adhere to and that those are changing all the time. He said, âWe have a whole team that does nothing but look at the latest guidance from health experts to see what we need to do and what we might need to change in our various workplaces
31 around the country.â He added that their initiatives include clean airports, clean airplanes, healthy team members, and face coverings. Hotelling added the last overarching message he had heard from many speakers is that of shared responsibility. His message of staying home if one feels sick is directed not only to those flying American Airlines and its team members but also to the traveling public as a whole. He also stated that throughout every step of the journey, American Airlines is trying to give people that confidence and peace of mind as they travel. He indicated that he heard from the Ohio governor that the message was not about eliminating the virus and that this virus might be with us until we can get a vaccine. It is not about suspending all of our activities until the virus is gone. He posed the following questions: â¢ How do we get back to our way of living? â¢ How do we get back to the workplace? â¢ How do we get kids back to school? â¢ How do we drop kids off at daycare and how do we travel? â¢ How do we get into airports and on the airplanes and live with the virus expecting that the virus is with us? â¢ What are all the things that weâre doing to stay safe and clean and healthy and make that experience like it always has been up until now? Hotelling added that as passengers go through the travel experience, American Airlines will address issues such as face coverings, temperature checks, making sure its team members can take time off even if they have used up all their vacation, and, finally, have a discussion of how to ensure a clean airplane. Hotelling presented the various initiatives, beginning with the security checkpoint. Some of what American Airlines is doing includes significant enhanced cleaning at their kiosks, ticket counters, and baggage service offices. The airline is trying to go as touchless as possible, but where customers still do need to touch, many of their devices are getting much-enhanced cleaning. He added that there has been much talk about the plexiglass shields at ticket counters and other service counters. These shields are already in place at most of American Airlinesâ airports. Now the airline is trying to spread out its agents and close kiosks and ticket counters to the extent possible, so that it can maintain social distancing from agents at the ticket counters. He believes that, universally across the airlines, airlines are now requiring face coverings, are checking the temperatures of most airport employees, and are providing hand-sanitizing stations where possible. Hotelling added that once passengers get through the ticketing process and the TSA checkpoints and arrive at the gate and boarding area, measures such as expanded cleaning, additional plexiglass shields, hand-sanitizing stations, adequate social distancing space, and use of personal phones to scan boarding passes will apply. Hotelling stated that they are allowing customers to scan their own paper tickets now and that these are the little things they are changing to try to make the processing of passengers more touchless. âFinally, and
32 most importantly,â he added, âis to travel with confidence on our planes.â Hotelling said that many airlines are now doing some sort of spraying to clean the plane, such as the electrostatic spraying that American is using. Hotelling spoke about the HEPA filters on board the aircraft and the fact that people think that they are breathing the same air over several hours on an aircraft, which is not true. Hotelling said that it is important to communicate that the air in the cabin is refreshed every few minutes. They are also deep cleaning all high-touch surfaces, will be handing out hand sanitizers, and making face masks available to anybody who does not have one or wants additional supplies. They are also limiting or changing their food and drink service depending on the length of the flight. He added that there are minimal changes on short- haul flights and, on longer flights, there will be limited service that has fewer touch points and changes on fully catered flights such as meal boxes. Boyett began by providing a lens into what Southwest Airlines is doing. He stressed that everyone needs to come together as an industry and that it is critically important that those in the industry seek solutions in a concerted fashion. He added that, with the different economics and networks, with other airlines facing challenges in terms of long-haul international wide-body aircraft, which Southwest does not have, they have issues with the way they turn their aircraft that cause challenges for them when it comes to cleaning. They also have issues that may be pluses or minuses regarding their open seating policy, which is different from other airlines. Boyett mentioned that there are tactical issues, such as dealing with masks and seating, but also emotional aspects, such as feelings of disappointment and feelings of gratefulness to be flying again, along with frustrations and short tempers. He stated that it is important to address the objective concerns of passengers, as well as their emotional needs so that people are comfortable with flying again. He continued that Southwest has added the âSouthwest Promise,â which provides assurance to their customers that planes and airports are sanitized. Southwest wants customers to feel comfortable that there is going to be space available throughout the customer journey. He added that there are changes in onboard amenities in addition to customer and employee screening with temperature checks and, potentially, testing and contact-tracing concepts. He stressed his focus was about what they can control. Boyett reiterated, âThis is a collaborative effort across many different parties, and screening is one of those that must be handled delicately and in close collaboration with government regulators and public health.â Boyett discussed HEPA air filters and electrostatic spraying, which are some of the key areas that customers want to know more about because they are not aware of the ways they can be protected from poor air quality. It is important to convey that all of the similar technology being used is safe and proven. Southwest wants to make sure that people understand that air filters can filter down to three-tenths of a micron and that air is circulated 20 to 30 times per hour.
33 He added that, as indicated by Fischhoff, it is important to keep informing customers in a way they can consume, understand, and believe. Boyett touched on how challenging Southwestâs open seating policy is but said it allows for more flexibility when it comes to seating, such as families who want to sit together. They are, however, capping the number of seats they are selling through July to ensure that there is space on board the aircraft. Other airlines are also implementing this, including American Airlines, which has a practice in place to help make sure that some of the middle seats are available as well. Boyett stated that they were able to restart snack and beverage service on board. They are looking at testing and feedback on how customers are accepting it and how flight attendants are delivering it. They have heard from their flight attendants that there is an earnest desire to get back to serving and that they are excited to be able to resume food and beverage service as a small gesture to their customers. HammâNiebruegge asked how Southwest was addressing the impact of the time for additional cleaning after each flight with its short turn times. Boyett responded that, because their schedule is currently reduced, they have time to complete a thorough cleaning of every aircraft in between every flight. He added that they trained 17,000 employees in under 2 weeks to be certified to complete those cleanings. He added that as they look farther out, they see the schedule tightening as they start to add more flights. He acknowledged that they will need to continue adapting and modifying their schedule to be able to accommodate the additional cleaning, as they believe that it is critically important for their customers. He stressed the importance of customersâ confidence in Southwest and flying in general. Hotelling echoed Boyettâs sentiments and added that the current limited operations allow them to get things done a little easier. He added that, as the airlines continue to add flights back, they will have to be aware of policies to accommodate and maintain social distancing as more people are waiting in hold rooms and in queues; the airlines will also have to limit wait times at ticket counters backed up due to limited [airline] staffing. These are the types of things they are still working through. He added that they all have the same questions and concerns about what they still need to tackle. OtherÂ StakeholdersâChallengesÂ ofÂ SocialÂ DistancingÂ andÂ TouchlessÂ EnvironmentÂ Â Joe Thornton, HMSHost Rob Mitchell, Uber Daniel Price, Transportation Security Agency Rhonda HammâNiebruegge introduced the last group of stakeholders: Joe Thornton, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, HMSHost; Rob Mitchell, Business Development | Global Airport Partnerships, Uber; and Daniel Price, Policy Coordination
34 Manager, TSA. Hamm-Niebruegge emphasized that at airports, there is also a range of additional services from concessionaires to transportation companies to TSA. Several perspectives were presented: food, beverage, and retail vendors; a ground transportation operator; and TSA, which is responsible for the airport screening checkpoints. Each presented the initial impact his organization experienced in moving from robust activity to a diminished demand and reduced capacity, stressing new initiatives, including increased cleanliness and additional protocols in place to help in reducing the spread of the virus and making it safer for travelers and employees. Thornton began by saying, âIt is interesting that we all have this past experience and yet weâre dealing with a situation that no one in this webinar can say theyâve actually dealt with before, which is striking.â He stated that he is new to HMSHost, having only begun in early March, and his second day on the job was when Italy shut down. This is relevant, as HMSHostâs parent company, Autogrill, is based in Milan. They saw the effects of the pandemic firsthand, which gave them a preview of what was to come, similar to the virus spread in China and other countries. Thornton described HMSHostâs growth plan, which includes how the company is refitting its restaurants for the future. He stated that they are operating about 1,600 food and beverage locations across North America and working with 300 brands across their portfolio. At airports, they are currently operating at 320 locations, indicating that about 80% of their restaurants are closed. He added that even more sobering is that, at their lowest point, their sales were down by 97%. He noted that some of his partners, particularly those with streetside businesses, also cited challenges, as their sales were down by 60% to 65%; however, many of them can bolster their business with drive- through, mobile orders, and other forms of delivery to the consumer. He added that in the airport, they are limited by the lack of flights and passengers, which is troubling. He expressed that it was heartbreaking that within the first week at HMSHost, he was already seeing the effects, and they made a very tough decision to begin to furlough associates. For HMSHost, having about 27,000 of 31,000 associates furloughed was concerning, and it has been challenging to react to the market. Thornton said that HMSHost has pivoted and spent a disproportionate amount of time addressing issues related to its associates. It first examined trends around making significant investments in PPE, even while losing sales and profits. He added that they view their restaurants and associates as the face of their organization and are doing everything possible to keep them safe and make an environment where they are still proud to work for HMSHost. Additionally, he mentioned that HMSHost has stayed in touch with its 27,000 furloughed associates and has built a website that is specifically for them. The website is continually updated to provide information about the tools that are available, such as those that guide them in getting unemployment, other resources available to them, and changes that HMSHost is working through. These changes are in the areas of safety and security and decisions about when they will be asked to come back from furlough.
35 Thornton added that HMSHostâs marketing communications team made a conscious effort early on to set up a hotline to talk to its associates and send out a dedicated e-mail to talk about the questions that continue to come up. Each week, the company is trying to navigate a moving target of what it knows, based on state and municipal regulations. HMSHost wanted to have a way to capture those questions as they came up and communicate responses to its associates through the website, e-mail, and the phone line. Thornton described how HMSHost has looked at this crisis from when it was conducting business as usual on March 10âa defining date for the company, as its parent company was impacted and started the chain reaction of events here in the United States and in North America overall. He added that they saw an acceleration in restaurant closures in the second week of March, so they knew that, in addition to furloughs, restaurants also needed to shutter. The company closed 800 restaurants almost overnight and then another 380 the following week. There was a period of about 7 weeks when sales hit a plateau and then a period when the company hit what it believed was the bottom. Thornton stated that consumer behavior is changing, driven by the shutdowns, but even in areas where they were not completely shut down, there was a drop-off. Hitting the bottom also gave them time to think while they were operating restaurants about how they should start thinking about the recovery plan and what would happen next. He stated that one of those defining moments for them was May 4, 2020, when the company put together its growth plan. He stated that they were very proud to share this document with all of their business partners and airport executives across the United States. The plan was developed in a partnership between Thornton and his colleague, Darrell Bennett, Vice President of Business Development; along with Bennettâs team, they facilitated a recovery plan through conversations with the airport about how they were doing it and, more importantly, how they would partner together through this journey. Thornton stated that they are building a strategic growth plan to start to open restaurants on the basis of what should be different in the new environment. He stated that considering the different level of shutdown that they have experienced, they are almost building a brand new company. Thus, they are discussing what has to look different. Thornton then elaborated on the HMSHost document âGrowth Plan, The Way Forward,â which details the three following dimensions: how restaurants are opening, the safety issues, and the guest experience. He added that when they started to think about the strategic growth plan, the team had to think differently. Today, HMSHost is an organization of over 320 restaurants, and it has the experience to grow back to over 1,600 restaurants and beyond. Thornton said âWeâve done it before, we know that we can do it again. However, we will likely do it differently than before.â He mentioned their strategic priorities, including how to grow the restaurants and their service execution. They must understand that they must be prepared for the new service environment and address how to grow their people professionally in the new environment. Thornton said he is concerned not just about when the associates can return as HMSHost grows back its business, but also about how the associates have been doing personally.
36 People have gone through a lot of hardship over the past 2Â½ to 3 months, and some of them are aware of the hardships and some of them are not. He added that they do not want to assume that these people are coming back, will be highly engaged, healthy, and that everything in their household is fine. He stressed that it is important to be thoughtful about engagement and growing their people professionally. Thornton added that they are going to spend time thinking about their approach to restaurants. As they are reengaging their associates, they are thinking about service execution and how best to reinvent their operations using strategic initiatives and performance metrics. He added, âCoupled with the amazing experience of their associates at HMSHost, they will almost have to unlearn the old ways and methods so that they can learn something new in the environment ahead, but [this] will be an exciting time given the challenges.â Thornton said that at the end of the day, HMSHost wants to be there for travelers to meet their dining needs and do so as safely as possible. Understanding that it may transact differently with them in the future, HMSHost still knows that it is a viable part of the traveling journey for the airport consumer, both the leisure traveler and the business traveler. However, one of the things that HMSHost continues to message is that it will be slow and methodical about its growth to get it right. Thornton added that HMSHost is responding to its partners in the airline business and watching how enplanements grow back to consider what that volume means for them and their restaurants and whether they are operating in the right airport locations. He felt that they are learning as they respond to opening restaurants in Charlotte to meet the demand there due to an uptick in activity. âOverall,â he added, âwe want to be careful to a degree because I think weâre all facing this unknown future of âHey, what if there is a second wave? What if there is another shutdown?â We want to make decisions that we could live with potentially through that type of experience as well.â Lastly, Thornton stated that HMSHost is approaching everything differently while understanding that, although past knowledge is great, it is really not a blueprint for success going forward. He added that Many of you could probably attest that you also have to challenge your own cultural norms as you go forward into this new environment. So as challenging as it is, weâre very encouraged, weâre very determined to be successful again in this space, and we are committed to doing it with the airlines and airport partners; the consumer is expecting something different and weâre all committed to delivering that. HammâNiebruegge thanked Thornton and asked Rob Mitchell to share his thoughts on the impact and what Uber is doing to instill consumer confidence. Mitchell began by stating that it is really about how to move forward together and prepare for the recovery of air travel. He agreed with Lenfert and said, âIt is shocking to think 3 months ago that we would be where we are now. And needless to say, itâs been a period of unprecedented trauma on the travel industry, and it has put incredible stress on each of us, our families and loved ones, colleagues, and our organizations.â He added that it is unlike almost any other large-
37 scale crisis he recalled in recent modern history, and he said that âthe phrase âWeâre in this togetherâ isnât clichÃ©, but itâs actually the unifying idea that will help us recover faster.â Mitchell stated that in his view, each of us has a role to play in our organizations by keeping each other safe while making the necessary changes to prepare for that new normal whenever it comes. He added that over the past 2 months, Uber has been urging riders to stay home for their safety and the safety of drivers, who continue to make essential trips. Uber operates in over 600 airports and 65 countries and has been sending this consistent message. Mitchell stated that during the initial days and weeks of the emerging crisis, Uber responded quickly to promote social distancing by, for example, temporarily suspending UberPool, which is its shared ride product, so that strangers would not be able to share a vehicle with each other in all U.S. cities. In addition, the company suspended Uber Copter (the companyâs helicopter service) in New York City and its pin dispatch system at airports. Further, he added that at a company level, Uber designated a 24/7 team to support health authorities around the world and their response to the epidemic. It also suspended, as requested, accounts of riders and drivers who may have been exposed to the virus. In addition, Uber has made a significant financial commitment and allocated $50 million for the purchase of PPE for drivers and delivery people globally. Mitchell indicated that that Uber has distributed about 30 million masks and has also committed to financial assistance for drivers. This assistance has provided $20 million to nearly 50,000 drivers and delivery people who have either been diagnosed with COVID-19 or asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days due to a preexisting condition. He added, âBut as cities begin to reopen and people start moving again, we want riders and drivers to know what they can expect when theyâre ready to take that second first trip.â Mitchell said he believed the common theme he had heard from all of the dayâs speakers is a shared belief that it is critical that we help travelers feel comfortable again and create a safe environment for them to come back to the airport. Mitchell outlined three principles that have guided Uberâs planning and can help inform others: â¢ First is creating a safe, predictable, and consistent experience, no matter the airport or what segment of a passengerâs journey. In air travel, it is critical that travelers feel that the entire end-to-end journey is safe and that each of the stakeholders in the airport ecosystem has coordinated actions, which is really important. â¢ Second is accelerating the move to more contactless and touchless technologies. He said, âAnd, I think, we certainly expect this to continue as a company built to enable people to get a ride at the touch of a button from their own phone. Weâre well positioned to help here.â â¢ Third is increasing speed and reliability in getting passengers to their destinations, which is going to be critical to instilling a sense of control and comfort for travelers as they get back on the road. He added that this all matters as it relates to Uber and TNCs because a large share of passengers at most large U.S. airports travel to and from the airports using TNCs. Specifically, at LAX, prior to COVID-19, more than 30% of vehicles entering the terminal areas were TNCs. While Uber does not serve every passenger to and from airports, all airport travelers need some form of ground transportation, and
38 this is a key part of the journey as more are returning to airports in the United States and around the world. Next, Mitchell discussed some of the measures that Uber has implemented over the past few weeks to enhance safety for riders and drivers and opportunities to improve the pickup and drop-off experience in airports. Over the past 2 months, the companyâs tech and safety teams have been building new products and protocols to promote safety while everyone uses its app. It built a new suite of tools and videos in the app to inform riders and drivers how to stay safe that includes advice of health experts who have been working with company leadership. As of May 18, all riders and drivers will now be asked to confirm via a âgo online checklistâ that they have taken safety measures and are wearing a mask or a face covering. Effective mid-May, Uberâs technology will verify if a driver is wearing a mask by asking them to take a selfie prior to logging into the app. If they are not wearing a mask at that time, they will not be able to log in to accept trips. Uber currently has this policy in place in the United States, Canada, India, and most of Europe and Latin America through at least the end of June. At that time, it will reassess each market based on health authority guidance. As for riders, Uber is asking them to use only the back seat of vehicles and has reduced the number of passengers eligible for an UberX ride from four to three. Mitchell said that for riders and drivers, accountability is key to ensuring everyoneâs safety. Therefore, Uber is encouraging drivers to cancel a trip, without penalty, if they do not feel safe. This includes if a rider is not wearing a face covering. Likewise, if a driver shows up without a mask, the rider can cancel the trip without a penalty. Both drivers and riders are encouraged to report issues to Uber via the app. Mitchell stated that there has always been a two-way feedback system that has long helped ensure both riders and drivers uphold certain standards on issues like vehicle quality, navigation, and speeding. He said, âNow weâre adding new options for feedback that include having no face cover or mask, and drivers or riders who repeatedly violate mask policies risk losing access to the Uber app.â Lastly, Mitchell touched on the passenger journey into and out of airport. As Uber riders are arriving at the airport, they are going to want to know they are in exactly the right place and they have a place to clean their hands. He indicated that they [Uber] can work directly with airports to make sure they are setting up optimal drop-off locations to minimize walk times. He added that airports are deploying sanitation stations and expressed that drop-off locations should be considered as well for the sanitation stations. Going forward, as travel volumes resume, there is work that Uber can do to promote social distancing and create a more dynamic distribution of drop-off locations based on security wait times at various checkpoints. As riders are making their way to pickup locations, they will want to get there as seamlessly and easily as possible. Wayfinding is even more important, to make sure that people are not lost and stuck in locations that are making them anxious. He added that it will help to have sanitization stations and safety checklists posted, which will help instill a sense of coordination across all stakeholders in the journey.
39 Mitchell added that they also want to make sure that they are leveraging [the] technology that they have to keep reliability high and wait times low, which will help reduce customer dwell time and prevent large numbers congregating in constrained locations. They will work with airports individually to make sure that they have technology configured to operate optimally. For airports with consolidated pickup points, he thought this might be a good opportunity to consider distributing those points out as volume returns, thus ensuring that too many people do not end up in one location. In wrapping up, Mitchell stated Uber has had many one-on-one conversations with airports over the past few months stressing the following themes: â¢ Airports are looking to reduce costs and preserve cash in light of their significant decline in revenue. Â â¢ Uber is implementing new measures to keep everyone at the airport safe. Uber feels it can help by working with transit agencies to, for example, provide transportation services as those agencies have reduced routes and services. This could help airports, given many run services for passengers and employees to and from airport campuses. They are willing to work together to help travelers feel confident about coming back to the airport for that second first trip. Â HammâNiebruegge introduced Daniel Price, stating that TSA is an integral part of the airport experience, and added that while TSA had its screening process down pretty well, it did not have a lot of lines or challenges. Price offered some themes and key elements of what TSA has been doing. He reiterated what others had said about the drop in volume and how that had affected operations, including at TSA. He stated there has been a significant drop in volume, but TSA is continuing to provide an effective transportation security element during these times. He indicated that their first focus is on the health and well- being of their employees. Price emphasized that the agency felt it was important to protect them and also offer leave for those who were infected with the virus or those who were caring for someone who is infected. He stated that, first, they have prioritized providing PPE and sanitizing supplies. TSA has made it mandatory for its transportation security officers at the checkpoint to wear PPE, which includes surgical masks, gloves, and even eyewear for some. They also have sanitizing solutions available at the checkpoints. There are health and wellness programs that officers can use and have offered some safety leave with flexibility to ensure that those who do not need to come to the airport can take time off if needed. Price also emphasized a safe environment through increased sanitization efforts for passengers going through checkpoints. TSA recently received extra funding from Congress for some of these efforts. He stated that, in regard to social distancing, while TSA is challenged by the limitation in the footprint of the checkpoint areas and is concerned that the queue could extend into the other public areas, TSA is working with its airport partners. He emphasized that it would be difficult to get through this without those partners and cooperative relationships.
40 Price added that there are opportunities to develop new policies and procedures and to make technological advancements to reduce contact and allow for touchless screening. He stated that, while TSA explores those options as part of a screening modernization effort, there will be some shielding installed at the ticket document checker (TDC) locations. TSA is trying to standardize the TDCs more broadly in the near future. As part of TSAâs operational efforts, people will be spread out more. On the technology side, TSA is also looking at screening modernization through the roll out of credentialing authentication technology (CAT). CAT is similar to the boarding pass scanner, as it allows passengers to input their documents, similar to how they use their mobile phones for a boarding pass. TSA is also taking advantage of the reduced throughput to look at other efforts and partnerships with international colleagues who have already started to roll out efforts. Price stated that TSA is trying to streamline some of the acquisition and procurement efforts by looking for different types of technology that could provide a better experience for passengers. It hopes to get this technology through the proof-of-concept phase with its transportation security integration facility. Price added that there will be signs at the airports about healthier checkpoints and new procedures as people are queueing and moving through the lanes and that TSA will be working with airports to get those posted. HammâNiebruegge thanked all of the speakers.