The Aspen Pitkin County Airport is a primary way residents and visitors travel to and from the Roaring Fork Valley. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the airport is taking steps to keep travelers and workers safe.
John Kinney, who is the director of the Aspen Pitkin County Airport, said when the news broke of the coronavirus making its way into the U.S., the airport began cleaning surfaces multiple times a day. The airport recently hired a company to come in each night to sanitize the whole airport including every seat, doorknob and table.
“We’re really taking an aggressive cleaning approach,” Kinney said.
Kinney expects the number of people traveling to decrease dramatically over the coming days. After Gov. Jared Polis ordered the closure of all ski mountains in Colorado, many visitors of the Roaring Fork Valley immediately booked flights home. Now flights that were once completely full are now 30-50% full.
Kinney expects some airlines to consolidate flights, so instead of three flights to Chicago a day, an airline may only have one flight. He expects that could be announced in the coming days.
That doesn’t mean the Aspen Pitkin County Airport plans on closing anytime soon.
Kinney said as long as critical employees such as TSA agents, air traffic controllers and pilots stay healthy and report to work, then the airport is open for business.
“The airport is creating further contingency plans in case more cases (of COVID-19) breakout and staffing does start to become an issue,” Kinney said. “We do have multiple contingency plans including what would it take to operate the airport safely, but at the bare minimum.”
He said the airport will begin to reduce services or eventually shut down if it isn’t able to operate with minimal staff or if it cannot keep the terminals clean enough for travelers. .
“It’s not a light switch where the airport just closes,” Kinney clarified. “It’s much more of a dimmer switch where you slowly ramp it down and then slowly re-open.”
While travelers are still coming in and out of the Aspen Pitkin County Airport, there is a section where at-risk individuals, such as elderly travelers or people with compromised immune systems, can sit away from other passengers until they board the plane.
TSA agents, ticket counter employees and baggage workers are encouraged to practice good hygiene, such as washing their hands regularly, wearing gloves and not touching their faces, according to Kinney. He said they have not had any reports of airport workers feeling ill or coming down with any specific symptoms of COVID-19.
“We know the coronavirus is here. We know there are probably more people than we realize that are carriers right now,” Kinney said. “It’s a scary time for everybody.”