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(Idaho Falls, ID) – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) and the airlines that service the airport have implemented a variety of changes for health and safety of passengers and travelers.
All travelers are required to wear masks in the airport. Airlines are also requiring masks and are handing out safety kits to passengers. In addition, only ticketed passengers or rental car customers are being allowed within the airport. Visitors who are dropping off or picking up passengers are required to park in either short or long term parking and must wait in their vehicles for ticketed passenger. There is no parking along the curbs outside the terminal.
Plexiglas barriers are being installed at all airline and rental car counters and cloth seating within the airport has been removed, with middle seating on benches also removed or closed off. The restaurant on the downstairs level has also been closed indefinitely; however, there is still limited food service at the upstairs restaurant for passengers once they are beyond security.
Airport staff are regularly cleaning and sterilizing the facility and commonly touched rails and surfaces and hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the facility. Signage has also been installed throughout the airport outlining the new health and safety rules.
“We’ve been working very hard, along with the airlines, to meet or exceed the requirements we’ve been asked to implement to help make travel safer in this age of COVID- 19,” said IDA Director Rick Cloutier. “Travelers will have to do their part as well, but travelers coming through our airport can feel confident that our staff are doing all we can to help keep passengers safe and healthy.”
Many airlines have changed boarding procedures to avoid close contact and allow for additional social distancing. Additionally, some air carriers are not selling center seats and are staggering rows of seating in order to more appropriately space out passengers. Each aircraft is also being sanitized by special electrostatic machines that clean and sanitize the interior of the aircraft after each flight.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, IDA passenger numbers from January and February were up 10 percent over the previous year and were on pace to set new passenger records for 2020. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, passenger levels from March and April have dropped by 93 percent from the same time period in 2019.
Earlier in 2020, IDA had announced the addition of new non-stop flights to San Diego and Minneapolis. The addition of those new flights is now on hold. IDA continues to have five flights a day with two to Denver, two to Salt Lake City and one to Phoenix.
Airport administration had also announced new terminal expansion plans that were scheduled for 2020. Originally funded at 93 percent from the federal government, the federal CARES Act will now pay for 100 percent of those terminal upgrades. The airport will take advantage of the additional funding and the downturn in passengers to move forward with the scheduled upgrades, beginning in June.
“We are confident that once these restrictions are lifted as we achieve more immunity or find a vaccine, we will see those numbers start to return to previous levels, so we want to be ready,” said Cloutier. “It will take time for that to happen, and travel will definitely look different from what it was in the past, but we want to be prepared to meet those new demands and requirements, whatever they may be.”