200515-Atlanta-A sign at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport encourage social distancing Friday May 15, 2020. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta airport said it has more than 250 hand-sanitizer machines around the terminals and concourses and has new announcements on its overhead PA system reminding travelers to practice social distancing and wear face coverings.
Hartsfield-Jackson general manager John Selden called the Plane Train the airport’s “Achilles’ heel” for social distancing as travel rebounds.
“It’s impossible to social distance on the train,” Selden said. “What we’re hoping is that you walk” between concourses in the ground transportation mall. “There’s plenty of room.”
On aircraft, Delta is blocking middle seats and certain other seats, capping planes at 60% full. It said it is sanitizing all flights with electrostatic sprayers before anyone boards and is boarding planes back to front.
Delta, Southwest and other airlines are requiring customers and employees to wear masks or face coverings and are providing masks to customers who don't have them.
On Delta, customers will be required to wear masks to board planes, and will be encouraged to wear masks during flights. Those who are unable to keep a mask in place, including children, will be exempt.
Industry group Airlines for America is encouraging the Transportation Security Administration to begin screening travelers’ temperatures.
Selden said airport employees’ temperatures are being checked, and “We believe very shortly the TSA is going to be doing temperature checks of everybody going through the checkpoint.”
However, the American Civil Liberties Union said remote temperature screening raises privacy concerns.
The moves come as airlines look to convince travelers that they are taking measures to make flying safe.
“People miss travel,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on FoxBusiness on Wednesday morning. “We’re going to continue to reinspire confidence.”
The number of people traveling is still down about 90%, however.
A survey conducted by MMGY Travel Intelligence for the U.S. Travel Association indicated that only 36% of U.S. travelers plan to take a domestic vacation in the next six months, and 68% feel safest driving to their destinations. Many destinations, such as Disney World, remain closed.
"We've got a long ways to go," Bastian acknowledged.