Airport’s essential workers go above and beyond during pandemic

Jul. 17, 2020 - Throughout the pandemic, a group of workers considered essential to keeping CLT open and operating have been the boots on the ground at CLT.

Hundreds of workers - from airline employees, concessions operators, screening professionals, security officers and baggage handlers - have continued with their duties during the pandemic. Many have been at the forefront of efforts to make the Airport safer and give passengers the confidence to fly again when they are ready.

Travel is different now and Charlotte Douglas International Airport is committed to our focus on implementing safety measures and continually adapting to the ever-changing travel experience. That starts with our front-line workers.

We talked to several in the Aviation Department, which operates the Airport for the City of Charlotte, to see how their work has been affected and how they have adapted.

Shuttle bus drivers

These men and women are often the first people our passengers see when they arrive at CLT.

“Staying safe and keeping spirits up are a big part of a driver's job every day. Now it’s even more important with the uncertainty of COVID-19,” said shuttle bus driver Ebony Leach.

When the shuttle buses are not transporting passengers, they are in our Fleet Maintenance shop for upkeep and for cleaning. Buses are cleaned after each shift and get a nightly deep clean with an electrostatic sprayer.

“We have a lot of gratitude for all of the front-line employees and all the essential employees,” said Samantha Singh, assistant landside manager.

Engineers and Planners

The team of planners and engineers in the Aviation Development overseeing Airport construction and capital projects that are often seen by the public, and in many cases have continued during the pandemic.  “I hope leading by example has a big influence,” said Jeff McSwain, director of engineering. “They see that we are being proactive and hopefully that will help resolve some of their fears.”

Dennis Irska, a senior airport architect, along with others on the planning side, has been working to find ways to modify the Airport to further prevent COVID-19 spread. “We’re looking at making the Airport as touchless as possible.”

Facilities Maintenance and Security

At the forefront of keeping things running at the airport 24/7 and one of Aviation’s largest work groups is Airfield Maintenance, Building Maintenance, Fleet Maintenance and Logistics and Facilities Services.

These men and women keep the air conditioning on in the terminal, keep our fleet of vehicles in good operating condition, mow the airfield and maintain the airfield facilities like the taxiways and runways so it is safe for planes to fly. Even in the early days of the pandemic, the Airport was open and people were flying. That meant our facilities maintenance people were on the job 24/7.

“Even if we completely close down and there were no airlines at the Airport, we would still have to have people here,” said Chris Hazen, the Facilities Maintenance Division director.

Fewer passengers have led to fewer security issues but no one lets their guard down. Keeping the Airport safe is the No. 1 priority in normal times and during a pandemic.

 “It doesn’t matter if there’s one person in the Airport or 40,000, it’s all the same rules,” said Renee Tufts, security operations manager. “It’s business as usual keeping our patrols up, compliance measures in check for the Airport security program and keeping the badging and access control system going.”