The spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has sharply impacted the air travel industry. In the future, passengers and employees will reenter airports with new expectations for their dining and retail experiences.
Returning air travelers will be less inclined to populate crowded dining rooms, food courts, and takeout lines and reluctant to order via touchscreen kiosks or tablets.
On the street, customers are becoming acclimated to ordering food and retail with no/low-contact options like delivery and curbside pickup. They will expect similar options to be made available at airports.
Space inside airport terminals is scarce, and that means restaurant dining rooms and retail shops inside airports typically offer less square footage than their counterparts on the street. This environment will not lend itself to six-foot spacing, and the customer experience will be unfavorable, to say the least.
The existence of new, safety-focused dining and retail options will be a vital component of the passenger’s expectations when they return to air travel.
How does delivery help?
Airports can help facilitate social distancing by establishing a mobile ordering and gate delivery program, which can:
- Offer customers the option to avoid crowded dining rooms and takeout lines.
- Serve food to flight crews on the plane, not in the terminal.
- Deliver food to employees in back-of-house break rooms.
A properly executed gate delivery program can provide a responsible alternative for customers who would rather not visit on-premise shops and restaurants. Appropriate safety measures include:
- The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by delivery team members.
- Hand washing and hygiene methodology, as recommended by the CDC.
- Best-practice sanitation methods for equipment, including thermal delivery bags, mobile devices, and uniforms.
- No-contact delivery options offered to customers to maintain social distancing.
Not Just a Convenience
Gate delivery is no longer just a convenience or amenity; a delivery service will be paramount to regaining the trust of customers and passengers by providing a safe alternative to traditional methods of shopping and dining inside the airport.
Airport authorities should consider applying CARES/FAA grant funds to underwrite a gate delivery program to ensure that there is no additional cost to the customer for what is now an essential service.
Planning for the future of commercial programs at airports should begin today, and gate delivery should be part of the solution to welcome the return of the traveling public.