What to expect when traveling through Tampa International Airport as it adapts to post-pandemic era

When travelers return to the skies, they’ll find changes at Tampa International Airport.

Officials announced the TPA Ready initiative Wednesday to protect travelers from COVID-19. Employees at the airport are being required to wear face masks. Passengers are being strongly urged to wear them. 

Workers are regularly disinfecting surfaces. Social distancing markers will be installed on floors. Plastic shields, similar to those in supermarkets, will be installed at ticket counters and security checkpoints.

“So we’ve actually taken from every industry we can learn from to try to make the airport as safe as it can be,” said Joe Lopano, TPA’s CEO. 

Lopano said he’s been consulting with other airport administrators in the U.S. and Europe who are also outfitting airports for the “new normal” when more travelers take to the skies. 

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The TPA Ready plan urges travelers to arrive at the airport two hours early because social distancing may slow the process. It also suggests using carry-on luggage to reduce touching. 

People picking up travelers are urged to use the cell phone lot and not enter the terminal. 

Wednesday TPA’s main terminal held a scattering of travelers flying on a greatly reduced schedule of flights.

“We have not closed the airport at all,” Lopano explained. “We’ve been handling passengers every single day.”

He said construction projects at the airport have actually benefitted from reduced traffic. “We’re able to accelerate that work quicker and cheaper,” he explained. 

It’s uncertain how long it will take before people head back to the airport in large numbers. Lopano said it could depend on when progress is made on a vaccine or treatments for COVID-19.

“Our goal is when they figure it out, we will have the safest, cleanest, most secure airport for our customers and our employees and this is what this is all about right now,” explained Lopano. 

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