The Gerald R. Ford International Airport will look a little different to travelers who are taking to the skies again.
The airport has rolled out its new “Fly Safe. Fly Ford.” campaign to help travelers navigate their way in and out of the airport safely and healthily, which includes enhanced sanitation protocols, installation of protective guards and increased signage, among other changes.
“For decades, the Ford Airport has played a critical role in connecting people to the possibilities of the world,” President and CEO Tory Richardson said. “While many are longing to travel again, understandably, there are questions of how to remain healthy while flying. Our Fly Safe. Fly Ford. campaign is designed to highlight the numerous steps we have taken to keep passengers safe while still offering a comfortable travel experience. Our easy-to-navigate size has been a factor in our pre-COVID record success, and we see it as a clear strength as we prepare for the new normal of travel.”
Passengers and airport staff who are medically able to are required to wear facial coverings. Richardson said the airport has about 150,000 free facial coverings that were provided by FEMA to distribute to passengers at the visitor’s information desk. He said although they don’t have a rolling stock of facial coverings, they have enough for a couple of months, depending on how often they are needed.
Travelers also can get free facial coverings from their airline agents. Facial coverings, along with other personal protective equipment, can be purchased in concession areas and at vending machines.
Queue lines will have stanchions and toppers to reference how far apart passengers should be to maintain social distancing requirements. There will be plexiglass between passengers and airline agents to protect their health and safety. Hand sanitization stations will be located throughout the airport.
Currently, the Prospect Hill Brewhouse is the only food and beverage business open after the security check. Nevertheless, the airport is requiring disposable menus and utensils. Richardson said they are working with their food and beverage providers to open more restaurants as passenger travel begins to ramp up.
“Fortunately, we have been able to get more travel in and out of the airport,” Richardson said. “When we were at our lowest, we were down 96% (travel traffic) and now, depending on the day, we are down 75% to 80%. So, we are anywhere from 1,500 to 2,00 travelers getting on airplanes and flying out. Before COVID hit, that number was anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 of travelers per day.”
Richardson said because travelers are booking more flights, airlines have been adding more flights.
“The month of June was the first sign of airlines increasing flights in our market,” he said. “In July, we are starting to see more flights picking up. Before the pandemic, we had 36 nonstop destinations out of Grand Rapids, and July, we will be back to 22. … We are starting to see increased frequency, meaning, instead of just one flight to Denver, we are having two flights to Denver in a day and the same with Baltimore.”
As flights are increasing, there are markings and signage in the gating and boarding areas to prevent passengers from having close contact with each other.
Ford Airport has been in close contact with its six airline partners who are implementing their own in-cabin measures. More safety information can be found on their individual websites.
Here are comprehensive safety and sanitation enhancements now in place at the airport:
- Reliance on continuous cleaning protocols to disinfect and sanitize high-traffic areas for the airport’s employees, tenants and guests, including bathrooms, airline kiosks, TSA bins, etc.
- Placement of hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal, pre- and post-TSA screening
- Installation of custom plexiglass at all interaction points, including ticket counters, rental car facility, etc.
- Use of visual clues to reinforce physical distancing throughout the airport through floor clings, stanchion toppers, wall decals and computer monitors
- Placement of signage throughout the terminal — overhead, wall-mounted, door-placed — reminding guests about ways to limit the spread of COVID-19
- Offering PPE to guests in concession areas and through vending machines
- Installation of energy-efficient HVAC systems that improve indoor air quality and temperature comfort