National Academies Press: OpenBook

Flight Plan to Recovery: Preparing Airports for the Return of the Traveling Public (2020)

Chapter: Session 3: Overture: An Industry Overview of the New Normal to Ensure the Health and Safety of Travelers

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Suggested Citation:"Session 3: Overture: An Industry Overview of the New Normal to Ensure the Health and Safety of Travelers." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Flight Plan to Recovery: Preparing Airports for the Return of the Traveling Public. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25954.
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Suggested Citation:"Session 3: Overture: An Industry Overview of the New Normal to Ensure the Health and Safety of Travelers." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Flight Plan to Recovery: Preparing Airports for the Return of the Traveling Public. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25954.
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Suggested Citation:"Session 3: Overture: An Industry Overview of the New Normal to Ensure the Health and Safety of Travelers." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Flight Plan to Recovery: Preparing Airports for the Return of the Traveling Public. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25954.
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18 SESSION 3   Overture: An Industry Overview of the New Normal to  Ensure the Health and Safety of Travelers  Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, St. Louis International Airport and Chair, ACRP Oversight Committee, Moderator Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association, Presenter Rhonda Hamm‐Niebruegge introduced Roger Dow, President and CEO, U.S. Travel Association. Dow provided an overview of the U.S. Travel Association, which represents all segments of the industry and does lobbying, communication, and research for the industry. Dow expressed the need to get more people traveling during this unprecedented downturn in the aviation industry and presented guidelines in several areas: transmission barriers for travelers in both the redesign of public spaces and touchless solutions; enhanced sanitation procedures; health screening measures; health procedures for those testing positive; and food and beverage guidelines. He directed attendees to industry guidance at ustravel.org/IndustryGuidance. Dow stated that the U.S. Travel Association’s mission is to get more people traveling to and within the United States. He said, “From an airline and an airport standpoint, this is the most horrific thing we’ve ever faced.” Dow cited that the industry had lost $519 billion this year, which is down 45%, and that many people are out of jobs. There are 15.8 million jobs in the travel industry; of those, 8.1 million, or 51% of the industry’s employees, are out of work. Dow added that in 1933, the worst year of unemployment in the Great Depression, unemployment was 25.5%. The aviation industry is currently two times worse than at that time. Dow stated that after September 11, the aviation industry came to its knees in 1 hour. Every airline everywhere in the world was grounded, and it took a long time to recover. He pointed out that that was an incident that took place in three locations and, as terrible as it was, people understood it. He said, Now, analysts have indicated that this is nine times more disruptive than September 11. . . . How do we bring this industry back together? Even though we are a unified industry, we all have each of our own areas we work on and we do work together as a whole, but I have never seen an industry come together more than through what has happened now. Dow described the information his organization put together, titled “Travel in the New Normal,” which is guidance for promoting health and safety guidelines for airlines, airports, hotels, convention centers, travel agents, theme parks, and cruise lines. Some 30 different organizations came together representing the industry with a set of guidelines. He stated that consumers are confused as they are receiving mixed messages from the media, in

19 which some say this is catastrophic and another report says it is overblown and has political implications. He said, “Consumers need confidence for reliable health and safety information; otherwise, they will likely stay home.” With that, he asked, “What if the industry told you it is okay to travel again?” He cited that 23% said they believed that statement, and 50% said they would not believe it and they thought it was self-serving. He then asked, “What if the government told you that it was okay to travel again?” and about 25% believed it, and the same number said they were not sure they believed it but that they thought this was to get America moving again. Further, a question was posed, “What if you heard from medical experts that it’s safe to travel now?” Thirty-five (35%) of total responses said they would would travel, he said, but when the three questions were put together and the question was asked, “What if you heard from the industry, the government, and from health experts with similar guidelines that are believable and credible, would that change your incentive to travel and the response?” The response then increased to over 60% who said they would travel. Dow said, “That is why it’s so important that we as an industry work together.” Dow walked through the six different areas in the guidelines. The first area is around transmission barriers. He indicated that the industry needs to modify its business operations, alter employee practices, install barriers, and implement touchless solutions wherever possible. Airports and airlines are reacting in different ways. He stated it is difficult to physically distance on a plane or to operate a business and be 6 feet apart. He added that it is about the kind of transmission barriers that can be put in place, modifications to operations, and the added sanitation. He stated that there are many ways to address touchless solutions with biometrics during the TSA experience. He elaborated that biometrics can be used for security screening at TSA checkpoints rather than touching driver’s licenses numerous times. Also, there are touch points for reservations, check-in procedures, baggage check, and purchases, etc. Dow stated, “The more we can go touchless, the better, and, thankfully, the technology is available today. “ Dow stated another area is implementing enhanced sanitation procedures, screening that the industry should be doing for employees, isolating workers who have symptoms, providing health resources to customers, and having procedures for when an employee or passenger tests positive. Dow expressed that he thinks it is very important to have that capability and an understanding of what the steps are. The next area is to look at health security screening and testing. He stated that 63% of people said they want some kind of certification for sanitation. He stated that there is discussion about partnerships with the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, etc., about a certification and how the guidelines would be developed in concert with the Infectious Diseases Society and other physicians from the preventive medicine area. Next is health screening and testing and what happens if someone tests positive. The last area is around food and beverage guidelines, which are changing in restaurants around the country. Changes are in service standards for opening and in assurances to the customer that they are following National Restaurant Association best practices. Dow stated there is a shared responsibility which they have as organizations, whether it be airports, airlines, or hotels, and responsibility on

20 the part of the traveler. He stated that, “when they work together with the providers, this is how we are going to solve this.” Dow outlined the steps his organization’s public affairs division has been taking to work with the aviation industry: They are active in making sure the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was available for food and retail employees. He added they are trying to address the 501(c)(6) organizations that were left out of that provision, which included convention and visitors bureaus, Broadway, museums, etc. Dow added that the U.S. Travel Association was very influential in getting $10 billion for airports but is going to try and get more for the airports, realizing the importance of airport viability. Dow stated they are pushing for liability protection, with hopes of avoiding frivolous lawsuits such claims of getting COVID-19 while on a plane or going through an airport. Dow added that the most important thing he believed was that people are going to start traveling domestically first and then will venture internationally. They are seeking an “Explore America Travel Tax Credit,” which is a tax credit through 2021 to stimulate legitimate travel. He indicated that they also want to restore the business and entertainment deduction to include all things such as tickets and food. Last, he added that they are looking at a stimulus of $10 billion to go out to communities and cities to start encouraging people to travel again. Dow summarized by saying that “without airports, without airlines, we don’t have a travel business,” and that “what you do is so important.” He added that they have worked together with Airport Council International and everyone in the airport community and provided information about their guidelines (available at ustravel.org) and thanked everyone for the shared partnership. Hamm-Niebruegge closed by stating that “no one can do this alone. Every single piece of this industry has to be coordinated and working toward a similar . . . path. . . . [T]his is one of the most critical things and the reason we’re doing this today.”

Next: Session 4: Airport Case Studies and Best Practices »
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This report summarizes an event focused on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response and its impact on the operational and economic recovery of airports.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program'sConference Proceedings on the Web 27: Flight Plan to Recovery: Preparing Airports for the Return of the Traveling Public includes presentations from airport industry leaders who discussed current and ongoing practices to get passenger confidence back to aid in airport recovery during an ACRP Insight Event over Zoom on May 28, 2020.

Specific topics presented the aviation industry with challenges that are mutually shared by all partners, including safety, public confidence, and financial sustainability. Other topics included gaps in the industry and public response to date and how the industry may address them, as well as operational mitigation strategies to enable recovery in the post-lockdown environment.

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