20:33 PM

How an airport stays open to facilitate critical travel, cargo operations

Coronavirus is changing the way companies around the world do business.

For some, it means reducing hours or metering the number of guests in and out of a store. For others, it means contactless pickup or moving all orders online. For many, it means temporary closure.

But what does it look like for an airport to stay open and provide access to essential passenger travel and critical cargo operations?

The answer is a bit more complex.

“Our priority at Tampa International Airport is to deliver a safe experience for all guests who need to travel during these unprecedented times,” said John Tiliacos, Executive Vice President of Operations and Customer Service. “We have a robust Pandemic Business Continuity Plan that ensures we keep our team safe – first and foremost. We are open for business and we need to be ready to return our operations to normal at a moment’s notice.”

The Airport began monitoring the spread of coronavirus weeks before it came to Florida, hosting daily updates on the virus and readying its Continuity Plan. When the virus came to Florida, TPA sprang into action.

This meant immediately deploying hand sanitizing stations throughout the terminal, new COVID-19 signage throughout the facility and enhanced cleaning in high-touch areas. For employees, it meant following best practices and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and, more recently, making facemasks available to frontline workers in accordance with CDC recommendations.

With a work-from-home policy already in place, the Airport quickly moved all non-essential employees to remote work, including departments from Marketing to Procurement and Finance, to minimize overall risk.

Even working remotely, the Airport’s focus on customer service remains high, with departments continuing to field any questions about COVID-19.

“While the work location may have changed, the commitment to providing excellent customer service has not,” said Joel Feldman, Senior Manager of Airport Concessions, who has handled a host of questions about parking. “Right now, going even further in providing excellent customer service is necessary. People are uncertain about their world - so providing an empathetic ear is much appreciated.”

For essential employees at the Airport, such as Airfield and Terminal Operations, Maintenance and Police, TPA has taken numerous steps to ensure safety while providing critical day-to-day duties.

These measures include following social distancing guidelines, separating team members where possible and identifying alternate staff to cover for anyone who may not be able to work. Some members of TPA’s essential teamwork part-time from home to minimize overlap, while other key members, including some Airport Operations Center team members, work full-time from home so that they are in a position to step in and cover the most critical areas if needed.

The new focus on remote work depends heavily on technology and frequent communications, and pushes remote access to the forefront. The ITS department has rapidly scaled remote access solutions, including Microsoft Teams, WebEx and Box for online file sharing – while largely working from home and getting creative with their own schedules.

The Airport’s use of remote technology has spiked since the start of coronavirus in Florida:

  • The Airport Authority has sent 108,500 chat messages on Microsoft Teams – an increase of 142 percent, and the vast majority of the team are active on the platform.
  • Box file-sharing has 422 active users and nearly 2.4 million files containing some 12.1 terabytes of data – roughly equivalent to 2,574 DVDs.
  • In the past 30 days, the Airport team has hosted 1150 meetings using Microsoft Teams – and another 836 one-on-one calls using the platform.

“As a high customer service airport, it’s important that we are able to communicate efficiently and respond rapidly – and none of that happens without the right technology,” said Marcus Session, Vice President of Information Technology Services.