COVID-19 has changed a lot, including the way our airports will operate. AAA’s Doreen Loofburrow, SVP Travel and Operations, recently toured Portland International Airport (PDX) with Delta Air Lines and PDX Operations team members to learn more about these new changes. Check out her experience with Portland Airport COVID-19 changes below:
Portland Airport COVID-19: Delta Ticket Counter
We donned our mandatory face coverings and met in front of the Delta Counter. I was excited to go to the airport since it has been a long time since I’ve been there. It really stirred the desire to get on a plane and go somewhere…anywhere actually! The ticket counter had no lines and not too many people. They blocked usage of every other kiosk to allow for more distancing. Plexi-screens have also been installed to help protect travelers and staff.
When approaching the ticket counter, a complimentary sealed packet with a disposable face mask and hand sanitizer is available for each passenger to pick up. Face coverings and masks are required to help stop the spread of COVID-19 at PDX International Airport, as well as social distancing and a strong recommendation to wash your hands.
I recommend travelers check in from home or use the airline mobile app. This will help eliminate extra touch points once you arrive at the ticket counter. Plus, if you use the airline app, you’ll receive up to date notifications on the day of your flight
The airport is only operating at 15-20% of their normal flight volume, it was no surprise that there was no line for security at TSA. Distance markers were placed every six feet to encourage and help with social distancing. TSA agents also have plexi-glass screens installed. TSA agents will ask that you lower your face mask so that they can ensure your face matches your ID.
Not a lot has changed with the security bin process, but they are cleaning the bins much more frequently for passenger usage.
Gate Area & Boarding Process with Delta Air lines
As you might expect, most restaurants and stores are still closed. A few of the convenience stores were open with grab & go options, but it’s probably a good idea to eat before arriving to the airport.
When you get to your gate, you’ll notice that every other seat is blocked to allow proper social distancing. Frequent announcements remind passengers the importance of keeping 6 feet of distance. Each night the PDX Operations team thoroughly cleans each gate area and all the seating with electrostatic sprayers. These spray small particles of cleaner that sticks to dry surfaces and dry after 30 seconds.
I watched as Delta boarded their flight to Minneapolis and noticed right away that the boarding announcements are quite different. Passengers were boarded from the back to the front of the plane and were called out by row number. Long gone are the days of lining up at the counter, passengers are asked (and reminded frequently) to remain seating during the boarding process until their row and seat number is called. You’d think there’d still be people eager to line up, but everyone listening and stayed seated.
All Delta employees are wearing face coverings. Delta has also set maximum limits for passengers on planes at this time — 60% max capacity in economy and
50% in First Class. As a rule, they also have blocked the middle seats through September 30th. Exceptions are made for families traveling together who’d like to sit together.
One very noticeable difference is carry-on items. If you are unable to lift your own carry-on item into the overhead bins, a Delta employee will not do it for you. They are trying to eliminate extra hands on your items and your carry-on item will need to be checked. Similarly, if it doesn’t fit under your seat, your item will need to be checked.
During the flight, Delta is not offering their standard food/beverage service. Instead, they are providing each passenger with a sealed pack that includes water, snacks, and a hand sanitizer.
When it’s time to deplane, passengers are again asked to stay seated to avoid overcrowding. Much like the boarding process, they deplane by row and passengers remain seated until their row is called.
Delta Plane Cleaning Protocols
Delta has stepped up their cleaning protocols. They have doubled the time the plane sits on the ground between flights, to allow for more cleaning. They have also doubled the amount of staff to do the cleaning.
First they use the electrostatic sprayers and then the staff cleans ALL surfaces by hand. This is done between EVERY flight for EVERY plane. The jetway is also sprayed down and cleaned to ensure proper sanitation. Delta has put together information on how they are cleaning their planes to maintain passenger and staff safety. You can read about it here.
Portland Airport COVID-19 Summary
While the Portland Airport was much more quiet than usual and had many more empty gates, there are still people traveling. The airport is operating and people are still flying places. It was a con to have to wear a face covering the entire time but you do get used to it and it’s an important step in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
I was very impressed by the safety and cleaning protocols that have been implemented. Delta Air Lines has really stepped up and taken the lead in producing these new measures. After my tour today, I’d feel 100% confident in boarding a Delta flight. Travel is still a personal decision, everyone might not feel the same way, but it is nice to see how things have changed to keep travelers safe.
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