A few weeks ago we shared what the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is doing to bring confidence back to travel. Continuing this series, we had the opportunity to chat with Kelsey Rae Young, who manages Communications and Marketing at the DFW Airport, to understand how they’re adapting to the pandemic.
Can you tell us a little bit about how COVID-19 has impacted DFW?
COVID-19 has had a major impact on the travel and aviation industries, and DFW Airport is no exception. While DFW Airport was fortunate to not experience a decrease in traffic as drastic as other major airports over the past six months, it is still experiencing approximately 50% less traffic than last year. DFW has experienced a more significant drop in business travelers. As customers return, leisure travel has rebounded faster.
While the business impact has been dramatic, COVID-19 has also made a large impact in the Airport’s daily operations. The team has had to look closely at every moment in a customer’s journey through DFW Airport and evaluate what changes need to be made to ensure confidence in a time of social distancing, face coverings and extra hand washing. It’s provided the Airport with an opportunity to test new technologies and find innovative ways to address the “new normal” that the world is facing.
A bright spot in this situation is that DFW Airport has taken advantage of this time of decreased operations and customers to fast-track construction projects that would have otherwise taken much longer to complete.
Can you walk us through changes the DFW airport has made to bring back confidence to travel?
In response to COVID-19, DFW Airport has implemented new policies and procedures designed to keep customers and employees safe. The Airport began implementing enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures in January 2020 when it was identified as one of the 20 U.S. airports where the Centers for Disease Control would monitor travelers for illness. These cleaning and sanitization efforts have continued to expand over the past nine months. To provide customers with added reassurance of the Airport’s cleanliness, DFW Airport worked to earn the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR facility accreditation and was the first airport in the world to achieve this recognition.
What social distancing measures have you put into place regarding check-in, security, and boarding/waiting areas?
The DFW Airport team has installed social distancing floor graphics in airline check-in areas, TSA security checkpoints, gate boarding areas, airline jet bridges, the Customs and Border Protection hall, and food and beverage line locations to remind customers to leave space between themselves and others. Signage has also been installed reminding customers to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, socially distance, and wear face coverings. This signage is located throughout the entire airport, including parking garages, curbside, terminal entrances, near elevators and escalators, inside Skylink, in restrooms, and by water fountains.
What new cleaning procedures have you implemented?
DFW Airport has increased cleaning frequencies all over the Airport, including our terminals. The team is focusing additional cleaning efforts on high touchpoint areas such as restrooms, gate seating, door handles, elevator buttons, Skylink train car rails, touchscreens, and inside security checkpoints (equipment and bins) among many other areas. The airport is also leveraging electrostatic sprayers to help provide additional sanitization throughout the space. Hundreds of hand sanitizing units have been added throughout the terminal spaces for our customers and employees.
DFW Airport is also continuing to test new clean technologies to see if emerging innovative products can help us enhance our programs.
Are you looking into any new types of touchless tech?
One of the newest additions to DFW Airport is the arrival of smart restroom technology. This project was already in progress when COVID-19 hit and it’s quickly been identified as one was that the airport is helping to keep customers safe and comfortable in light of it. Indicator lights have been installed above stall doors in terminal restrooms, allowing customers to easily see with stalls are available and minimizing the need to touch doors to check for availability. This technology is also helping to keep restrooms cleaner by tracking utilization and automatically dispatching custodial staff to areas of high utilization.
The DFW Airport team has also installed boarding pass scanners throughout the terminals where customers can scan their boarding pass and have their gate displayed on a screen, without the need to use a touchscreen.
The airport is currently piloting virtual assistant technology, where airport employees and volunteers can safely interact with a real person to have their questions answered on site.
What airport services and/or amenities/retail stores have been closed or modified since the pandemic?
DFW Airport made a decision early in the pandemic to provide relief to our concession partners. It was one of the first airports in North America to move from a minimum annual guarantee-based fee model to a rent structure based on a percentage of sales. The DFW Airport Board later approved for the airport to accept leased space back from concessionaires with no penalty.
Fortunately, only four of DFW Airport’s 245 locations have permanently closed due to COVID-19 impacts. Approximately 100 other locations are temporarily closed.
Locations currently operating throughout the airport have provided more touchless options for reviewing menus and payment options. All locations are ensuring COVID-19 safety measures are being followed. Many food and beverage locations are also providing enhanced “grab and go” food options and alcohol to go.
To learn more about what DFW Airport is doing during the pandemic visit their website here.