Earlier today, ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke joined U.S. Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator, and other aviation stakeholders for a press event at Washington Reagan National Airport ahead of the summer travel season. Ensuring the health, safety, and security of the traveling public and airport workers is our top priority. Today’s event provided an opportunity to demonstrate how airports are enhancing health and safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The past year has been a historically challenging one for our industry. A pandemic like this has not occurred in over a century. While few of us expected it to subside quickly, not many in the airport industry predicted 14 months ago that it would create this kind of uncertainty for the aviation industry.
The spread of COVID-19 brought air travel around the world to a near stand-still, and the slow recovery of commercial aviation reinforces the importance of working together to nurture our industry back to health.
Despite those challenges, we are proud to say that airports responded swiftly in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, taking aggressive steps to contain the spread and protect the traveling public, our tenants and our employees.
As evidenced by a health and safety study released by Harvard earlier this year, airports helped limited the spread of COVID-19 by implementing a multi-layered approach to health and safety. That included enhanced cleaning and sanitization regimens, upgrades to ventilation and air handling systems, encouraging physical distancing and mask wearing, and the implementation of new and innovative contactless technologies.
Airports remain ready to welcome back passengers when they are ready to travel. Our airports rely on the close partnerships with DHS, TSA and other government agencies as we work together to provide for the health, safety and security of the traveling public. This is critically important as states continue to reopen.
Although we are starting to see a modest improvement in passenger traffic, year to date passenger volumes are still down nearly 50 percent compared to 2019. The resumption of international traffic is essential to ensure sustained growth in the volume of travelers.
For many passengers traveling this summer, it’s been more than a year since they’ve been to an airport. So, we are continuing our work to educate the public about some of the changes that have been made to the traveling experience in light of the pandemic.
Follow these simple travel tips to make your next trip easier:
- Wear a mask and social distance. Masks are still required in all airports and on all airplanes, regardless of your vaccination status. Please remember to be courteous and respectful to the TSA Officers, airport staff and other passengers by complying with the mask requirements for air travel.
- Enrolled in TSA PreCheck. Enrollment in TSA PreCheck provides a level of predictability from an expedited screening process and wait times that rarely exceed a few minutes. Before you arrive, make sure to check your local airport’s website for any logistical changes that have been made that might delay the process of getting to your gate.
- Arrive early, and please be patient. There are many people arriving at airports today who have not traveled in 14 months and are adjusting to the new normal. That will take time and patience.
- Pack smart. Remember that we still have many of the same security protocols as we did prior to the pandemic. Make sure you don’t have any large liquids—no liquids, gels or aerosols over 3.4 ounces in your carry-on. As always, place your cell phone and other items in your carry-on before you go through the screening process.
- Travelers should be aware that firearms may be checked but are never allowed in carry-on bags.
- Bring proper identification. We were pleased when DHS Secretary Mayorkas recently announced an extension of the REAL ID deadline until May 2023. So, while REAL ID is not a requirement for travel yet, please be sure to begin the process of obtaining REAL ID-compliant identification, so you will be ready for future travel.
We thank our DHS, TSA and airline partners for working with airports during this challenging time for our industry. We also want to recognize our airports for the tireless work they’ve done over the past year to provide for the health, safety and security of travelers. Airports are essential — not just for the aviation industry, but also to their local economy and to the global economy more broadly. Without the efforts and innovative ideas from airport staff across the nation, we would not have been able to make it through the past year. Thank you for your work and for keeping our passengers safe.