SAN FRANCISCO INT’L AIRPORT (KPIX 5) – While officials at San Francisco International Airport are trying to reassure travelers that it is safe to fly during the COVID-19 pandemic, that message is being challenged by some airport workers.
With stay at home orders once again tightening and Thanksgiving approaching, officials at the airport say it’s safe to fly and be inside the terminal, with masking, social distancing and hand sanitizing stations everywhere.
“We actually use UV filtration in the air handling systems of this airport as well,” airport spokesperson Doug Yakel told KPIX 5.
Yakel said safety is something the airport is handling at every level.
“We are increasing the frequency of these buses. We are actually managing the capacity, if a bus is too full, we are asking people to wait until the next bus comes around. We’re doing the same with our AirTrain system.
Yakel said extra cleanings are happening constantly and new technology is being deployed to combat COVID-19.
“We’re also testing out new ultraviolet disinfection systems on the handrails of escalators,” he said.
Labor representatives for SFO vendor employees said it’s not enough and want safer staffing standards.
“Things are better than they were in March. Are they safe enough to fly? No,” said Jane Martin with SEIU-USWW.
Members had a car caravan rally outside the airport Tuesday, making sure their fight for PPE and transparency around positive cases among the skeleton workforce is known to the public.
“They’ve used the excuse of medical privacy to say which of your coworkers have tested positive, which they don’t have to do. They don’t have to name names, but what they ought to do and what would be safest, if they could say you were on that shift, you’ve worked in close contact with someone, you need to quarantine,” Martin said.
Wheel and aisle chair operators said they need more PPE, specifically more face shields and gowns.
“Two agents will handle the function, one is handling the foot of the passenger and the other one is the one who embrace the body. That’s why it’s very, very critical. We need some protection for ourselves,” Nestor Dolde told KPIX 5.
Martin says skeleton crews need to be beefed up for sanitary reasons. “They’re actually unable to wash their hands or even change their gloves in between directly handling passengers,” she said.
Flights coming in and out of SFO are only running about 40% of normal November levels right now and fewer than 20,000 passengers a day are moving through the facility.
There is space for social distancing and the few passengers we encountered told KPIX 5 they feel as comfortable as they can.
“It’s not really in my control, so as long as I’m kinda doing logically what I think to reduce that exposure, that’s really all I can do at this point,” said Jake Jacobsen who was flying to Sydney, Australia with his three children.