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'Travel Confidently' safety program launches at MSP

As travel at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) starts to rebound, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) this week will publicly unveil its comprehensive enhancement of safety procedures at MSP to help ensure travelers and employees are kept safe throughout their journey and time at MSP.

The "Travel Confidently" program outlines the many steps the MAC and its stakeholders are taking including enhanced cleaning protocols, encouraging use of face coverings for travelers and MSP employees, placement of reminders to social distance throughout the airport and installation of safety shields at information booths and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) document checker stations.

"Working with guidance from health agencies and best practices in the industry, we have adopted a comprehensive program to help keep travelers and airport employees healthy," said MAC Chief Executive Officer Brian Ryks.

Planning for the program at MSP began almost immediately after the threat of COVID-19 became apparent in mid-March.

A visible safety program
While the Travel Confidently program is rooted in the many changes made at MSP to improve health safety, a key element is ensuring travelers are not only physically safe but also feel safe when they are at MSP. The program will be very visible – from websites to stanchion belts to digital signage throughout Terminals 1 and 2.

"We know people will begin flying again when they feel safe doing so," said Naomi Pesky, vice president of Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement for the MAC. "Employees and travelers will see signs of the Travel Confidently program throughout MSP."

Although overall passenger traffic at MSP is down about 80 percent year-over-year, the numbers have been climbing since late May and are substantially better than the low-point in mid-April (down 95 percent from year-ago levels). Forecasts for July and August suggest numbers will continue to increase, as well, making the launch and visibility of this program all the more important.

"Travelers are returning to MSP, and we're ready for them," said Ryks. "We look forward to connecting our customers to their world and providing their best airport experience."

Following are some of the many enhancements implemented at MSP over the past few months:

Enhanced cleaning regimen
MSP has one of the best airport cleaning programs in the industry. In the most recent Airports Council International Airport Service Quality customer survey, MSP ranked first with travelers among comparable North American airports for terminal and washroom cleanliness.

Building on this foundation, the MAC worked quickly with its janitorial contractor to establish a formal COVID-19 Response Team and Microbial Remediation Plan, including the use of hospital-grade disinfectants.

As part of the enhanced cleaning regimen, high-touch-point disinfection teams were formed to focus on cleaning door handles, light switches, restroom fixtures, elevator call buttons, handrails and TSA passenger screening tables, bins and baggage rollers.

In mid-June, the MAC also began electrostatic disinfectant spraying overnight – commonly referred to as fogging – in the public spaces of both Terminals 1 and 2.

Social distancing
The MAC has encouraged and implemented the use of social distancing controls for travelers and its employees, as have retail shops and restaurants at MSP. Floor decals and other signage have been placed throughout Terminals 1 and 2 to remind people of the importance of staying at least 6 feet from one another.

Face Coverings
As part of the MAC's own Preparedness Plan, MAC employees are required to wear face coverings when in public spaces at all of its airports. Travelers and visitors are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings while at MSP, and most airlines also require passengers to wear face coverings.

The federal government has supplied 1.9 million face coverings to the MAC for MSP employees and travelers. Employees and travelers can pick them up at four Information Booths at MSP:

  • The Tram Level Information Booth at Terminal 1 (Main location for distribution)
  • The North and South Information Booths inside security at Terminal 1, at either end of the Airport Mall
  • The Information Booth at Terminal 2 next to the car rental counters

Beginning in July, complimentary "customer care kits" – which will include a face covering, hand sanitizer and an information card about the Travel Confidently program – will be available at MSP Information Booths.

Face coverings are also available for purchase at several MSP retail stores. And on Monday, face coverings and other personal protective equipment (PPE) will be available from vending machines throughout MSP.

Shield guards
The MAC has installed more than 130 shield guards throughout MSP Terminals 1 and 2 at common-use ticket counters, gate desks, gate podiums, TSA checkpoints, information booths and other locations.  

Hand sanitizer stations
There are now about 50 hand sanitizer stations throughout Terminal 1 and 10 at Terminal 2. More stations will be added as closed concourses at Terminal 1 begin to open.

Airline safety enhancements
Several airlines at MSP – including Delta Air Lines – have also stepped up their safety procedures, some of which include:

  • More rigorous and frequent cleaning of aircraft
  • Electrostatic fogging of aircraft – similar to the daily overnight fogging at MSP
  • Boarding of aircraft from back to front to limit contact between passengers
  • Limiting passenger numbers to 60 percent of aircraft capacity
  • And keeping the middle seats in aircraft vacant to assist with social distancing

Trip planning
A new trip planning page has been created on the airport's website that helps travelers navigate the airport as it is today and encourages them to take steps to keep themselves and others safe. This page will be updated as additional changes are made and services come back online.

Prebooked parking
Travelers can now select parking online before their flight – without having to push any buttons or insert a credit card – via the new Prebooked Parking website. Through QR codes, the MAC's pre-booked parking service provides travelers a touchless experience upon entry and exit from MSP's parking ramps.