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41 QuestionsÂ &Â Answers/WrapâUpÂ Â Rhonda HammâNiebruegge reminded everyone that the presentations are available at ACRP Insight Event Flight Plan to Recovery | ACRP. She stated that the participants heard a lot of consistency in what people are doing and what the world is learning. Whether this is short-term or long-term, we are all adapting. She started by asking Winsome Lenfert, âWhat would be the single best entity, agency, or association to pull all this together and to have both the compliance mandates and the best practices?â Lenfert responded that in addition to all the great information shared, there is a piece that was not part of the wrap-up: That for individual airport operators, FAA would be looking at several different working groups, both with her colleagues and through other federal agencies. These groups are looking at some of the best practices that they can recommend for the industry. She added that much of that will depend on their partners, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, both of which primarily have roles for security and health determinations and will be relied on to issue guidance. She added that different organizations and agencies, such as TSA and FAA, are going to take the suggestions and responses from this meeting and share them with their different work streams. She stated that since many airport operators are owned locally by state, county, and municipalities, each one also has its own health department and requirements. Many of them are following the requirements of the CDC, but they also have their local health requirements. She referred to one of the speakers who talked earlier about how it is very different from state to state as to what the requirements are and how it is necessary to strike that balance with the federal government in the role it plays. But it is also necessary to understand that local health entities have a role to play. Lenfert stated that she would encourage airport sponsors to have a dialogue with their local health organizations and foster those relationships and continue to share the information from this webinar. HammâNiebruegge asked Kurt Hotelling, âHas American or any of the airlines done any customer surveys to understand what the passengers are saying will be a confidence level for them?â Hotelling responded that they have done customer surveys weekly, and while many of the results were of the things that has been discussed today (e.g., aircraft cleaning and other cleaning procedures being taken), there seems to be a trend in the right direction toward a more confident place. They are trying to shape their policies around some of the results that they see from those surveys. HammâNiebruegge asked, âA lot of different people talked about tech savvy and some of the changes from a touchless environment. What about people who arenât tech savvy, such
42 as the generation of older travelers or someone that has just not gotten into the world of being tech savvy these days? Do you think itâs going to be a larger challenge for them to travel, and, if so, are there things to also think about for that population?â Hotelling responded that they are trying to promote and allow things to happen that are more touchless than they have been in the past. He added that with a paper boarding pass, to go through the boarding process, the agent would typically take it out of a passengerâs hand and place it on the scanner. He stated that they are now allowing customers to do that themselves; while it is a very small thing, it is the little things that enable change to happen. However, this is not mandatory or universal. He stated that airlines fully recognize that people are still going to have to use their kiosks and are still going to have to talk to a ticket agent at the ticket counter or to gate agent, so all of those services are still possible and available. It is perfectly fine for people who fly once a year, do not understand the processes, and do not have the apps on their phone to do it themselves. They are just trying to enable those who are more tech savvy to have touchless options. He added that agents will always be there, as with every airline, and will always have all of the processes that allow the non-tech-savvy person to travel just as seamlessly as anybody else. Joe Thornton responded that he believes there is a distinction between technology and automation. With changes in technology, things like Quick Response (QR) codes are going to be more prevalent than ever before. While it was in the suite of changes for people, it has moved to the front of the queue, certainly for concessionaires. There will still be the live associates for interaction versus automation. He described how when grocery stores went to self-checkout, they still have had people staffing check-out lanes. But at some point, stores will move to full automation, which is a journey that will be seen over time. Thornton agreed with Hotelling and believed there will be some changes, but not as dramatically and not right away, and they will watch the views of the customer. HammâNiebruegge asked Thornton, âHow are you planning to stagger your reopening? Is it purely based on the volume of passengers or is it based on something within the airport?â Thornton responded that the short answer is âcarefully.â He added that there are a number of different metrics, and they have an actual process for building a business case. As they are just reopening the restaurants they had before, they are also looking at enplanements and TSA data as indicators of volume of passengers. They are also examining the proximity of their restaurants to their other locations in different zones, terminals, and concourses at the airports. Finally, they are looking at where planes are being directed, based on the airlineâs flow and their projections and whether their competitors are open or not. He stated that there are many things that would go into the mix but added that they are not treating any of their restaurants as carte blanche to say, âHey, letâs just open it back up. We know that we need to retrofit them to some degree.â He added that they are also putting them through the rigors, since the restaurant had not been opened before, and making sure that they use really sound data. He reiterated his earlier point: âKnowing that we can stay at this kind of very low and very slow recovery rate for a while and/or the potential of a shutdown to where we have to kind of reconsider what we have.â
43 HammâNiebruegge asked, âThey heard the coronavirus has actually been around for many years. One, is that true, and, if so, is this just a different strain or why are we all so surprised by COVID-19?â Hilary Godwin responded, Yes there are other coronaviruses that have been circulating for a long time, including one that causes the common cold, but those are different strains of coronavirus. We donât know how long a lot of these viruses have been around. What weâre seeing is them coming from animal populations and transferring over into humans. Itâs possible that itâs been around in animals for a while and just finally made its leap over to people. In the past, viruses have crossed over to people but just not spread as much. We donât have any evidence at this point that itâs been circulating in humans and human-to-human transmission before the late part of last year, 2019. HammâNiebruegge asked a follow-up question to both of the doctors: âTrying to do the tracing and tracking, knowing how challenging that can be, is that something that we should be spending our time on when there seems to be a lot of other things that we could be doing? Is that a critical component, that we try to do the tracing of how each individual [may have had] contact with it?â Godwin responded, We do have good evidence to support contacting people who have been in close proximity for an extended period of time to an individual who is known to be infected. As long as they then self-isolate while theyâre in the infectious period, it is an effective strategy, but it is dependent upon people actually being willing to quarantine themselves after theyâve been contacted. But that being said, there are recent studies by the Institute for Disease Modeling in Seattle that have looked explicitly at that issue of if we were to increase the amount of movement in the population, which is one of the indicators of spread of COVID, how much could we offset that by doing contact tracing? What they see is that effective contact tracing, where people actually follow up by quarantining themselves if they have been identified as being in close contact, actually can really help. So I think particularly as weâre moving from this period of really constrained social interactions, we all want to move to something that looks a little bit more like normal. She added that, âContact tracing and the isolation and quarantine of individuals who are known either to have COVID or to be in close contact with people who are COVID positiveâ itâs going to be really important. HammâNiebruegge posed a question to TSA: âYou mentioned some rollouts of improvements at the checkpoints. What is the time frame for the rollout of those new ideas that you talked about?â Daniel Price responded, âFor some of the nontechnical ones, the protective equipment, the shielding, the increased sanitation of the bins and the checkpoint itselfâthat is happening now.â He added,
44 You will see more shielding in place at the TDC very soon. So, those efforts are on the way. The timeline for the rollout of other technologiesâthe CAT for oneâis going to be happening between now and toward the end of the year and then on a much faster basis. Obviously, we had to acquire the machines and then we have to test them, put them in place, and make sure that theyâre working. The improvements will be seen now, and then youâll see an uptick and additional efforts throughout the end of the year. He added, âBecause [of] some of those longer lead effortsâmaybe a different design on the checkpoint or an update to how the checkpoint is configuredâthatâs a much longer effort, and we can try to get a head start on it, but I think that will be a number of years in the making.â HammâNiebruegge asked, âWith the intense cleaning effort thatâs being done, is more waste being generated? And, if so, does that have to be disposed of in a particular manner?â Godwin responded that âthe amount of waste generated really depends upon the process; so that electrostatic frame should generate too much weight, but obviously doing wipe downs would create more waste. Iâm not sure how they dispose of that.â HammâNiebruegge added, âTalking from an airport perspective, obviously we are doing a lot of additional cleaning and wipe downs. We havenât been instructed nor have we sent a recommendation or a guideline that says itâs treated as any sort of a hazardous matter or waste product any different than what weâre doing today.â She asked Hotelling, âAs Boeing announced massive layoffs, do you believe that there will be enough workers or the demand for aviation is matching what the airplane industry is going to be able to produce in the coming years?â Hotelling responded, That question is asking me to speculate on Boeingâs future. Either way . . . in general, itâs a long-term industry, and a lot of us have parked older aircraft. But we constantly renew, and younger fleets are more energy efficient and typically have better seating configurations. While it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on Boeing, inevitably, just like every industry, we have to replace our aircraft over time. Itâs hard to imagine a world where Boeing is not a part of that. He added that nobody should read anything into his comments, as he indicated that he is out of his element on this. HammâNiebruegge asked another question of Hotelling, âWhat is the airlineâs expectation regarding the impact on ticket fares due to the reduced capacity and the reduced number of passengers? Do you see that itâs going up? Where do you think this will have a longer term impact on air pricing?â Hotelling responded that, as we went through this, there have been a lot of fare sales, and . . . all the airlines are . . . experimenting a little bit with different buckets of fares. I think theyâre experimenting with
45 those to see what sticks. Obviously, we need to generate air travel, so I would imagine from time to time that we will continue to see attractive fares out there to generate demand. Ultimately, the success of our companies is [not based on our survival on fire-sale prices long term]. Longer term, I would expect this is going to be about supply and demand, and thatâs what ultimately dictates what the fare prices are, so I think it probably course corrects over time. He added that this was not his area of expertise. HammâNiebruegge asked, âAs we see the industry returning and as we see the need for more restaurants to be open or more transportation options available for those who choose not to have a personal vehicle or drive to the airport, are you concerned that you wonât see employees returning to work, that even though unemployment is obviously high right now, that the concerns just may be too overwhelming for some individuals?â Thornton responded, Itâs an interesting question, because the answer will probably change in 30 to 45 days. . . . Today we certainly have anecdotal examples of calling people back and not everyone wants to come back to work. Much of that is driven by the subsidyâthe $600 per week [that people receiving unemployment are eligible for] that goes through July 31. [For] those who did get the one-time stimulus and who have already been getting unemployment [who are at a certain] income level, it makes more sense to not go back to work. Weâve heard that play out from our associates for the past few weeks. . . . The good news is that that we donât have a lot of demand for a lot of restaurants today, and weâre methodical about opening. At the point that that accelerates, we believe, at least timing-wise, itâs going to match up. There are many discussions in Congress, in that there will not be an extension to that $600 a week stimulus. There was discussion about a one-time bonus to encourage people [to] return to work. I think weâre going to have this place where those two paths cross, where we have more demand needed for people. Now people are ready to come back to work. I believe for our segment, thatâs what weâre going to see.â HammâNiebruegge asked Mitchell for his thoughts on the drivers within the TNC world and if he thought that it is going to be a challenge to regain those drivers. Mitchell responded that if you look at the sequence of events over the last couple of months, Uber is this marketplace that connects riders and drivers, and the reliability for riders depends on having enough drivers available to fulfill those rides. What we saw in the very early days of the impact on travel at airports was an oversupply situation, meaning we had many more drivers coming to the airport for a dwindling number of rider requests. In the late March time frame, that trend abruptly changed and coincided with states and cities issuing stay-at- home orders. I think what you said, the cause of that was obviously folks following the guidance and staying at home. There was also the reality that there just werenât as many trips to get in airports. We continue in that situation right now. As a result, we have seen wait times for trips increase, and we have some mechanisms in place to keep reliability as high as possible. But weâre continuing to keep a close eye on that.
46 He added, Looking forward, Iâd say in a typical environment, we would expect that as unemployment increases, there are probably more people that are going to be looking for other means of income. Driving on the platform is a good way to do that so I suspect, as we start to see stay- at-home orders relax, this trend will likely shift, but itâs hard to know exactly when thatâs going to occur. Generally weâre not terribly concerned about that, but for the immediate term, I think we are seeing a challenge and it will depend on either how smooth or bumpy that recovery is. HammâNiebruegge noted that Mitchell had said that many airports have a particular pickup area that used to be very congested and asked, âIs there something from your perspective that can be done to ensure that there is not bunching or gathering of people in these pickup areas?â Mitchell responded that he believed that in the immediate term, that is probably not a poignant issue, given travel is still down anywhere between 90% and 95% in most places in the United States. He added that, as the United States gets back to 30%, 40%, 50% of previous levels of aviation traffic, it could become an issue at certain times of the day or days of the week. Also, every airport is different, as it depends on roadway configuration. From a technology perspective, it is very easy to work directly with an airport and identify additional pickup locations, and when riders open the app, they can change it to different locations. TNCs can also encourage a different location, depending on the time of day, for example, late at night. In addition, the TNCs have also encouraged passengers arriving at busy times to go to the departures level for pickup if there are not many flights leaving at that time. HammâNiebruegge asked, At what point do airports run out of the ability to have the 6-foot distancing? Some airports have more space than others, especially in their ticketing areas and lobby areas, which are very constrained. Many of the lobbies . . . have been developed or changed over time because the check-in process changed. Thus, the lobbies are not deep, and if there [are] a lot of customers in line, what is the reality of that social distancing requirement? It can be anywhere from once someone gets to a 40% or 50% level that capacity is no longer an opportunity, all the way up to 75% or 80% understanding that many airports have modeled. But this is very similar to the question on spacing on airplanes. At what point do some of those become unrealistic? She believed that this will be an ongoing challenge in the coming months. Hamm- Niebruegge stated, âThatâs our livelihood. Thatâs how we all survive in this business, and this industry is used to challenges and we always come forward for them.â She asked one last question: âWhat policy or policy position can the federal government take that would help this industry, come back that we havenât yet seen? Is there a particular policy that we havenât seen yet that we feel should be forthcoming or that would really help this industry regain your level of trust?â
47 Hotelling stated that while he has heard this for American, he believed what would make everybody feel comfortable getting on an airplane is that those that surround you had passed a temperature check. He added that it would be difficult for airlines to take that on because of the way people check in, adding that not everybody goes to the ticket counter and people go through security and then head to a concessionaire. He suggested that it would be better if it was a federal mandate and added that he believed it would boost confidence for those in the airport and getting on an airplane. Thornton responded that that is one of their biggest challenges and said, âI think it speaks for many of us in this industry . . . weâre trying to legislate behavior,â and added that while they would all like financial health, as you look at airports across the United States, the people [who are] coming to the airport are going to mirror the communities that they are flying out of and into. While there are people in the United States who do not believe there is a pandemic and people who are afraid to fly already, there will be people that do have to get from Point A to Point B. He added that they can be sitting next to each other on the plane, which is a challenge. He added that HMSHost and the industry are all working with policy, social-distancing stickers, and all of their tool kits. HammâNiebruegge concluded that while this industry is going to keep changing over the next couple of months, and certainly with the pent-up demand of questions and in having to ensure the public that it is safe to travel again, there will likely be an opportunity to expand on this. Information was provided about a post-event survey (Appendix C). The information on this event can be found on the ACRP website at http://www.trb.org/ACRP/ACRP-Insight- Event-COVID19.aspx.