It wasn't all bad: Here's 10 things TPA gained in 2020
As a turbulent year comes to an end, let's celebrate the good stuff we got along the way.
We couldn't have predicted the many things we took for granted would be gone in a flash in 2020. Our passenger numbers plunged, our international routes all but disappeared and many of the things we love most about Tampa International Airport changed drastically as COVID-19 put a serious dent in air travel around the world.
But it wasn't a year of complacency for America's favorite airport. This past year, TPA saw more innovation than ever before as we sprang into action to adjust to the new normal, as well as adding new amenities, new features and even new flights that will serve our customers for years to come. Here are 10 things we gained in 2020 -- some that we expected and some we would have never dreamed would be a part of TPA life.
New places for pooches to potty: Late this year, we put the finishing touches on our new Service Animal Relief Areas, complete with faux grass and fake fire hydrants to help service dogs feel at ease. The new areas, available at each airside, will make it easier for those traveling with service dogs to find relief without having to locate staff to help.
Friendly reminders to give people more space: Who likes being crowded anyway? In April, TPA staff began placing hundreds of floor stickers, seat signs and other reminders throughout the Airport guiding guests to stay six feet apart in accordance with CDC guidelines. While we're doing it for health reasons, we're thinking this may be a trend that sticks around now that we see how nice it is to have more personal space.
Clear plastic shielding at kiosks and counters: It took some getting used to but now acrylic shields separating workers and guests are becoming the norm, helping to keep airborne germs contained and increasing the overall health of the airport. We installed the shields in late April as part of our TPA Ready program.
Face coverings for all: Love them or hate them, face masks have become an important and universally accepted way of preventing the airborne spread of COVID-19, and TPA -- as well as most airlines -- began requiring all guests and passengers to wear them this year. For those who forget them in the car, several of TPA's shops now sell them.
Converting our TPA Event Space into a medical testing site: When we opened our bright, open, airy new Event Space a couple years ago, we could have never predicted it would one day be put to good use as an innovating viral testing site for passengers. In October, TPA became the first U.S. airport to offer COVID-19 rapid antigen and PCR testing to all departing and arriving passengers, and in the first three months, we've had nearly 12,000 travelers get tested.
A more comfy place to nurse: This past fall, we opened our long-awaited new nursing rooms, providing a much more clean, private and cozy experience for our breastfeeding parents. The new rooms have comfortable seating, electrical outlets, changing tables and other features to help those with their tiniest travelers.
Lots of exciting new routes: When we saw our traffic drop by more than 90 percent in late March and early April, we couldn't have predicted that mere months later, airlines such as Silver and JetBlue would not only be resuming canceled routes but bringing new ones to TPA. Being a top U.S. leisure destination helped, as airlines have long predicted vacationers will be the first to return to the skies. Here's a video of the new route highlights.
New technology at TPA: Touchless tech became even more important in 2020 as we opened our E-gates to allow passengers to enter the shuttles without having to hand off their boarding passes to other humans, and TSA installed new touch-free scanners and processes as well. We also added new handrail cleaning machines for our escalators and continue to look for ways to make TPA a more seamlessly easy and sanitary place.
Hand sanitizers ... everywhere: If 2020 taught us anything, it's the importance of hand-washing and sanitizing. One of the first COVID-19 modifications we made in March was to add dozens of hand sanitizing dispensers throughout the Airport, giving people plenty of opportunities to kill 99.9 percent of germs on their paws.
Floors so clean, you can eat off them: Well, we wouldn't go that far, but it's safe to say TPA has never been cleaner than it is now. While cleanliness has always been high on our priority list, in April we began adding more cleaning staff and increasing cleaning schedules to ensure touchpoints, restrooms and heavily trafficked areas stayed nice and sanitized for our guests. We also added new machines and atomizers to reach those hard-to-clean areas like buttons and escalator handrails.