What are airports actually doing to keep you safe during COVID-19?
By Peter Miller, Skytrax – London, UK
Skytrax COVID-19 Airport Ratings investigate the reality behind how airports COVID-19 procedures are performing in terms of delivering a safer environment for their customers and staff.
Airports across the world have introduced new processes and systems to make the experience safer for staff and customers, including upgraded cleaning and disinfection, enhanced airflows, social distancing, face mask usage, terminal access restrictions and PPE for staff. Some guidelines applicable to airports are provided by ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force, with the Skytrax COVID-19 Audit offering a more in-depth analysis.
In most instances, the stated procedures serve to improve hygiene conditions and reassure customers and staff, but the reality of procedural success is already very varied according to international air transport rating organisation Skytrax.
“We have recently started COVID-19 Airport Audits at some European airports, and the reality we are noting is that some of these stated procedures are either not being applied or are being implemented in an inconsistent and almost shabby manner” said Edward Plaisted of Skytrax.
Given the severity of the restrictions in place on everyday life in some countries during the pandemic, Skytrax have been surprised by the lack of basic controls, which includes:
» Passenger only terminal access in some cases is not being monitored at all.
» Lack of hand sanitiser points before and after high risk points such as check-in and security.
» Limited or no control of social distancing in key areas such as security clearance queuing.
» Observation of dirty toilets with depleted soap, hand sanitiser, and hand towel supplies.
» Infrequent or inadequate cleaning protocols of seating areas, and low numbers of cleaning staff.
» Insufficient maintenance of F&B dining areas and some lack of contactless payment systems.
» Improper use of airport staff PPE at key contact points.
Skytrax Airport Ratings have always put total emphasis on the reality of quality adherence rather than written or theoretical areas, and already we are seeing a big variance in the way that airports are reacting to COVID-19 by way of making the experience safer for their staff and customers.
Preventive measures at Tokyo Haneda Airport
The COVID-19 Airport Audit studies monitor each aspect of procedure, hygiene, and cleanliness across key areas, and determines consistency in fine detail. Even where airports are committing to various aviation industry charters for COVID-19 hygiene systems we are seeing a lack of quality and attention in the application of the stated procedures, and some of these guarantees appear to be based on airports self-certification which does not yield accurate or always trusted results.
A particular concern is that some of the procedural weaknesses are being observed during early morning periods when the airport has been closed overnight or accommodating very low customer numbers, and at a time when one might expect the best start of the day, fresh and clean experience.
To evaluate the proper and successful execution of cleaning processes, Skytrax use on-site environmental ATP testing which is geared around high contact areas and customer usage frequency. This procedure signifies clearly if a surface has been adequately cleaned, and highlights to airports where systematic change to the cleaning technique or frequency is needed to achieve the correct hygiene standards.
Skytrax COVID-19 Airport Ratings are based on an amalgam of procedural efficiency checks, visual observation analysis and ATP sampling tests, with consistency being a key determinant in the final assessment. A summary of the COVID-19 Rating levels is provided below.
The 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Rating recognises the highest standards of airport cleanliness and maintenance procedures. Airports achieving 5-Star deliver many Best Practice systems of cleanliness and hygiene monitoring, and most importantly, these protocols are adhered to consistently. In addition to excellent visual cleanliness and terminal presentation standards, 5-Star airports provide exceptional disinfection and hygiene measures that deliver an 75% pass rate during scientific validation.
The 4-Star COVID-19 Airport Rating indicates a good standard of airport cleanliness and maintenance procedures. Airports achieving 4-Star deliver some Best Practice systems of cleanliness and hygiene monitoring, but these may be applied inconsistently. 4-Star rated airports deliver good visual cleanliness and terminal presentation standards, in addition to robust disinfection and hygiene measures that deliver a 60% pass rate during scientific validation.
The 3-Star COVID-19 Airport Rating indicates an average standard of airport cleanliness and maintenance procedures. Airports achieving 3-Star have Best Practice systems for cleanliness but do not apply the necessary cleaning and hygiene protocols on a regular or consistent basis. 3-Star rated airports deliver reasonable visual cleanliness and terminal presentation standards, in addition to disinfection and hygiene measures that deliver a 50% pass rate during scientific validation.
A 2-Star COVID-19 Airport Rating indicates an airport that must improve the standard of cleanliness and maintenance procedures to meet industry average expectations. Airports achieving 2-Star have a low number or absence of Best Practice systems of cleanliness, and the cleaning and hygiene systems in use are either inadequate and/or inconsistent. 2-Star rated airports have weak visual cleanliness and terminal presentation standards, in addition to disinfection and hygiene measures that fail more than 50% of tests during scientific validation.
Which airport will be first to gain the top 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Rating?
The first COVID-19 Airport Ratings will be published shortly, based initially on airports evaluated in Europe. COVID-19 audits at airports in the Middle East, Asia and North America is scheduled for the next phase of ratings, subject to the opening of individual country borders in the coming months.
In late September 2020, Skytrax will announce the first COVID-19 Airline Ratings, based on assessment of effectiveness and consistency of measures put in place to ensure that safety and hygiene measures are of the highest standard for both customers and staff.