Inslee announces new standards for airports in Washington

Discussion:

Airlines and airports embrace the baseline standard and expand their efforts to protect travelers and employees.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that Washington is setting new requirements for commercial airports and recommendations for airlines.

This is a statewide approach to the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect the health and safety of workers, passengers and crew in the aviation sector.

“The steps we’re taking will help protect those who need to fly,” Inslee said. “This guidance isn’t just about SeaTac — these requirements apply to airports across the state — Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities and Everett too.”

In addition to the new baseline guidance from the state, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle announced additional steps to protect the health and safety of airline passengers and staff.

The news was announced Thursday in a press conference. The governor was joined by Max Tidwell, vice president of safety and security for Alaska Airlines, regional vice president Tony Gonchar of Delta Air Lines and Lance Lyttle of the Port of Seattle, which manages SeaTac Airport.

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Photo courtesy of Port of Seattle.

Inslee has called for a uniform national standard around air travel in his letter to HHS and DOT. Although states’ authority is more limited than the federal government’s, Washington state’s new guidance sets a baseline standard for airports throughout the state.

The new Commercial Service Airport Requirements are a statewide approach to the COVID pandemic to ensure the health and safety of employees, passengers and crewmembers working and traveling in the state’s aviation sector. This approach encompasses setting baseline requirements at each commercial passenger service airport and encourages airlines to adopt certain health screening questionnaires.

The guidance will require face coverings in the airport; signage and spacing for physical distancing; protective barriers between travelers and workers; sanitizer and disinfectant protocols; and that airport vendors and businesses follow state and county health agency requirements.

It also strongly encourages airlines to establish health screening questionnaires for passengers regarding potential COVID-19 exposure or symptoms, and to require passengers abide by face covering and physical distancing requirements in order to be issued a boarding pass.

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Photo courtesy of Port of Seattle.

Most airlines are already doing these things during the passenger check-in process, and I appreciate their commitment to continuing these important practices. These steps will help protect those who fly and the people who work in airports and on planes,” Inslee said. “I am grateful to Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and the Port of Seattle for joining me in this announcement and for sharing the additional steps they are taking to protect the health and safety of Washingtonians.”

“We are grateful for Governor Inslee’s leadership in providing continuing assurances to air passengers in Washington about the minimum standards they will encounter throughout their journey. As part of our ongoing efforts to provide layers of protection for our customers and employees, we will pilot a temperature screening process for our customers flying out of SeaTac beginning Oct. 1. Customers who have a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be allowed to board consistent with the CDC’s fever threshold. Meanwhile, we have implemented more than 100 other measures as layers of protection from the moment you check-in for your flight to the moment you retrieve your bag at your destination known as the Delta Care Standard,” said Tony Gonchar, vice president, Delta, Seattle.

“Alaska Airlines and our 10,000+ Washington-based employees greatly appreciate Governor Inslee’s support to keep Washingtonians safe and support critical infrastructures like commercial aviation, which is vital to the well-being of our economy,” said Max Tidwell, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of safety. “COVID-19 has fundamentally changed travel and we’re adapting. Our Next-Level Care program includes more than 100 safety actions designed to protect our guests and employees. From helping guests with pre-travel COVID testing options, to piloting temperature screening programs and rolling out new touch-free travel technology, we’ve adapted to make flying safe.”

“The Port of Seattle deeply appreciates Governor Inslee’s support and these common-sense protocols to keep passengers, employees, and our community healthy and safe. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), guided by the leadership of our Port of Seattle Commission, since early spring we implemented and evaluated a wide range of new FlyHealthy@SEA protocols. We will continue to rely on science and partnership to maintain the health and wellbeing of our community, employee and passengers, and urge our federal leaders to help us drive a uniform, national approach to airport health and safety,” said Sea-Tac Airport managing director Lance Lyttle.

Read: COVID-19 Commercial Service Airport Requirements

Watch: Gov. Jay Inslee’s September 24th press conference