Gov. Inslee announces statewide approach to safe air travel during pandemic

Sep 24, 2020, 3:37 PM | Updated: 4:54 pm

To keep air travel as safe as possible during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Inslee announced Thursday that new protocols will be in place at airports statewide, created in partnership with airlines, the ports, and the public.

“The steps we’re taking today are going to help those who do decide to fly during the pandemic,” Inslee said.

While the state and governor’s office have asked for a federal standard, Inslee said the Trump administration has failed to provide any uniform protocols.

The new protocols for Washington state airports will include face coverings or face masks to be worn in all areas “upstream of the TSA security line,” Inslee said. There will also be signage to indicate appropriate spacing for social distancing, protective barriers between travelers and workers, and increased sanitization. Inslee pointed out that many airlines are already following most, if not all, of these steps, but now the protocols will apply to all airports in Washington, including regional.

Sea-Tac Airport requiring all travelers, workers to wear masks 

“It truly is unprecedented times,” said Max Tidwell, vice president of safety and security for Alaska Airlines.

Alaska has implemented a layered approach of safety over the past seven months, Tidwell said, including required health agreements for all passengers, a “no mask, no travel” policy, and continuing to block center seats through the end of November. The company has also enhanced airport and aircraft cleaning protocols, working to provide fewer and fewer touchpoints through the help of technology.

“We also know that plans change, especially in this environment,” Tidwell said, which led Alaska to eliminate change fees permanently.

All of these safety efforts are to gain the confidence of travelers as more passengers choose to return to air travel in the coming weeks and months. Tidwell says the airline industry is working together to do what is right for the public, the industry, and the economy.

“The bottom line: Flying is safe and when our home state is ready to fly, our employees … are eager to welcome you back,” he said.

He also recognized that the pandemic is still ongoing and airlines and airports need to keep pushing to improve the safety for employees and passengers.

“We cannot let our guard down,” Tidwell added. “We have to make sure we continue to push and improve our procedures.”

At Delta, many of the same protocols are in place to protect passengers and employees. Tony Gonchar, regional vice president for Delta Air Lines, said they are the only airline blocking middle seats through the entire holiday season, through Jan. 6, 2021. Similar to Alaska, Delta has also increased aircraft cleaning procedures, and require customers and employees to wear masks when traveling, taking immediate action for anyone who fails to comply.

Gonchar added that Delta is hosting a pilot temperature screening for outbound passengers at Sea-Tac airport beginning Oct. 1. Anyone who registers a fever will be screened a second time. If a traveler’s temperature is still too high, they will be rebooked on a later flight or refunded, and placed on a health safety restriction list for 14 days.

Delta also has testing available for employees through onsite clinics, at home, and rapid tests in the employee airport lounge areas.

Lance Lyttle, managing director of the aviation division for the Port of Seattle, echoed the governor’s comments that a uniform, national approach is needed. In place of a national standard, however, local airports and ports are stepping up to ensure that the traveling public is safe and healthy.

According to passenger surveys, Lyttle says people think rapid testing for COVID-19 at airports would help increase their confidence in safe air travel, so the port is in conversations with vendors to find out if that is feasible to implement. Passengers have also indicated that they believe Sea-Tac is taking the necessary steps to protect customers and employees.

Passenger volume at Sea-Tac Airport reaches 53-year-low in April

For now, Lyttle says customers will have to get used to the “new normal of air travel,” which includes wearing face coverings, increased cleaning, signs for social distancing, and touchless technology.

“We are an aviation state, and we live to travel,” Inslee said. “I’m glad we’re all working together to make this a safer environment.”

Local News

early primary, kim wyman...
Nick Bowman

Report: Washington Sec. of State Wyman could be leaving role for new job with Biden administration

Sources tell CNN that Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman could be leaving her role for a new job with the Department of Homeland Security.
18 hours ago
vaccine, booster doses...
MyNorthwest Staff

Booster doses of COVID vaccines available in Washington for eligible individuals

Booster doses of all three COVID-19 vaccine types are now available for certain individuals in Washington, and can be safely mixed and matched.
18 hours ago
salmon hatchery...
Dalton Day

Potential ‘irreparable damage’ to Puget Sound orcas over alleged illegal salmon hatchery expansion

Conservationists allege that Fish and Wildlife has expanded salmon hatcheries without lawful compliance under SEPA, thereby damaging native salmon and orca whales.
18 hours ago
seattle relief fund...
Kathryn Altena

Mayor launches Seattle Relief Fund to help families impacted by COVID

Seattle city leaders announced the launch of a new relief fund Monday to help struggling families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
18 hours ago
MyNorthwest Staff

State recovers $495,000 in stolen unemployment benefits with ‘innovative’ legal strategy

For the first time, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has used asset forfeiture to repossess $495,000 in fraudulent unemployment claims.
18 hours ago
Washington Daylight Saving Time...
Nick Bowman

Washington looks for ‘alternative’ paths to end years-long wait for permanent Daylight Saving Time

With the state setting their clocks back again on Nov. 7, Sen. Murray says her office is ramping up work to end the twice-yearly time changes.
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Gov. Inslee announces statewide approach to safe air travel during pandemic