Gordon Duke // Prince George Airport Authority
As the President and CEO of the Prince George Airport Authority, and through my roles in previous airports, I have always been an avid air traveler, and a self-identified “Aviation Geek”. With the shut-down of air travel at the height of COVID-19 restrictions, I underwent the longest period in my life that I had not been on an airplane. It felt so good to get on one again. Air travel is a comfortable old friend of mine, but for those of you who travel infrequently or wonder how it looks now and how safe it is, I wanted to share my experience directly.
As this was a work-related flight, I entered the terminal from our connected offices early; I am aware of the general safety precautions for the airlines, but was unsure what the process would be in the practical application. I put my mask on before entering the terminal, as all our employees do. All individuals in the terminal (passengers, airline staff, employees) were wearing masks and practicing social distancing. We have some highly visible signage out in front of the terminal which is a great reminder to have a mask on the entire time, not just on the plane. “Meeters and Greeters” are limited to keep numbers in the terminal manageable for social distancing, so there weren’t too many individuals waiting.
Check in went smoothly – the Central Mountain Air (CMA) staff wore masks and there were plexiglass dividers and windows at every airline counter to protect both staff and the public. I was given a care package of disinfecting wipes and an extra mask from CMA. There are standing signs directing waiting lines for each airline, and we have decals on the floor in the terminal for social distancing; this too was an excellent reminder for everyone waiting.
Screening and boarding are a bit different now, in that you show the boarding pass but you no longer hand it to the screeners. They review it, and clear you to the Boarding Lounge (unless, like me, you are the lucky individual randomly selected for additional screening!). I was interested to see the process, so this worked well for me. Screening agents take you aside, swab your hands with sanitizer and then do a full body scan. Immediately afterward they fully sanitized the screening devices. The cleaning and disinfecting protocols were excellent and very efficient as well. It did not seem to slow the process down as one might expect, given the extra steps.
In the Boarding Lounge, everyone (employees, travelers, security, airline staff) was wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing by sitting separately from each other. There weren’t a large number of travelers on that day, and there is plenty of seating and standing room available, so this was easy to do. There was an “unaccompanied minor” heading out on a flight, and I thought that the support and service from the airline were excellent for that young person. There are extra vending machines in the Boarding Lounge now that carry safety essentials, but no restaurant at the moment.
The boarding and flight itself were great. I was on a smaller 18-seat plane, with only eight other passengers, spaced out amongst the seats. The CMA pilots were awesome; they wore masks and greeted us at the bottom of the stairs to the aircraft. The co-pilot reminded everyone that masks need to be worn for the duration of the flight, and the information was provided politely and positively. The aircraft looked like it had just been sanitized and smelled incredibly clean.
On my return flight to Prince George, masks were left on for the duration of the flight, getting off of the plane and while walking through the terminal. I was happy to see everyone in the terminal was wearing masks as well, while waiting for their baggage. I didn’t have any baggage for this work-related day flight, so I walked directly through the terminal and outside to do my part and limit those extra numbers inside!
Although it was a bit of a long work day, it felt great to be back on an airplane and heading out to explore another area of our province. Despite the changes implemented, air travel felt as comfortable to me as it always has. With all the safety steps and protocols following recommendations from the health authorities, I felt safe for the entire trip, in both our airport, and the plane.
Prince George Airport Authority
For more information on how the Prince George Airport is keeping its visitors safe, visit www.pgairport.ca/coronavirus-2020/
About the author: Gordon Duke is the President and CEO for the Prince George Airport Authority. Gord‘s extensive aviation background includes 25 years with Air Canada, an eight-year period as Director of Operations at Halifax International Airport Authority, as well as time with GardaWorld Aviation Services. He has served as Chair of the Canadian Airport Council’s Operations, Safety and Technical Affairs committee. When not at YXS, Gord can be found hiking, bike riding or visiting a local craft brewery. Gord and his wife Dorothy have four children located all across North America and one grandchild in Vancouver. The Dukes are enjoying Prince George and getting out to explore as much as they can.