TAMPA, Fla.—Tampa International Airport introduced a new plan to keep passengers and employees safe amid the COVID-19 health crisis. The “TPA Ready” plan puts in place measures for social distancing, enhanced cleaning, reduced seating and mask use for the coming weeks to slow or stop the spread of the virus.
“We never really closed the airport a single day throughout this crisis, so we’re handling a couple thousand passengers a day, and we have a couple thousand employees out in the terminals every day," said TPA CEO Joe Lopano. "We’ve taken this time to try to learn the best practices employed by others to help affect social distancing.”
Lopano says TPA is down 97 percent in passengers because of COVID-19. The new measures came out of looking at what other airports are doing as well as how places like Universal and Walmart handle lines and crowds.
All employees will be required to wear face masks at the airport, and the airport is employing extra cleaning staff. Cleaning crews will use cutting-edge disinfection applications and products on surfaces, handrails, and elevator buttons. They will also add more hand sanitizers throughout the airport.
Plastic shields will be installed in high-traffic areas like ticket counters, TSA checkpoints, gates, and concession counters. The airport will add thousands of ground markings and signs to give guidance on six feet of social distancing at ticket counters, gates, shuttles, and other areas.
The airport will reduce, block off, or space apart seating in gate areas, dining areas, work stations and the Main Terminal greeting area to promote social distancing.
“We are doing the very best that we can," said Lopano. "We’re taking the best practices from around the world, putting them in place at TPA, so we can make sure that your experience, you can have confidence that your experience will be safe and secure through all the measures that we’re putting in place through TPA Ready.”
Passengers at Tampa International explained the changes are steps in the right direction to getting people back into airports.
“I understand there’s that pressure both ways of open up or stay closed, it’s the balance," said Janice Shepard. "For more people to want to fly, you need to make them feel comfortable. And I feel perfectly comfortable today.”
On top of the comprehensive plan, TPA is asking guests to adhere to CDC guidelines as well as the following:
- All passengers and guests should wear face masks while at the airport in any capacity
- Passengers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure to help prevent crowding caused by last-minute rushing before scheduled flights
- Travelers should use carry-on luggage and mobile boarding passes to limit touchpoints
- Those picking up or dropping off passengers should not enter the Main Terminal; instead they should use the cell phone lot or stay in their vehicles in the short term garage unless they are assisting unaccompanied minors, passengers with disabilities, or others who need assistance