National Academies Press: OpenBook

Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies (2023)

Chapter: Chapter 5 - Case Examples

« Previous: Chapter 4 - Survey Results
Page 39
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Case Examples." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Case Examples." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Case Examples." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Case Examples." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Case Examples." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27235.
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Page 43

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39   Case Examples To better understand unique working arrangements at airports, specific airports were selected for additional follow-up and are showcased here as case examples. Case Example 1—Atlanta Regional Airport, Falcon Field Location: Atlanta, Georgia Airport Identifier: FFC FAA Region: Southern Airport Hub Size: GA Acreage: 350 Based Aircraft: 198 2021 Annual Aircraft Operations: 76,000 Owned and operated by the Peachtree City Airport Authority, the Atlanta Regional Airport is staffed by 18 employees, including four employees in customer service, two in airfield main- tenance, four in administration, and eight in line service. This general aviation airport also owns and operates the fixed-base operator (FBO). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport never terminated, furloughed, or decreased the work hours of any employee. Additionally, the airport did not have any turnover during the pandemic. Even though the aviation industry slowed during the pandemic, “people were still flying, we were receiving fuel calls, and other phone calls,” according to the Airport Manager. Although the terminal building was closed for three weeks at the height of the pandemic, airport staff continued working on other projects during this time. Once the terminal building reopened, a plexiglass screen was put in place for customer service personnel. Employees and customers were encouraged to maintain social distance. Only two employees worked remotely at any time during the pandemic. The bookkeeper worked remotely for several months, bringing in checks to sign on a regular basis. The Assistant Airport Manager worked remotely for several weeks to care for a newborn (personal communication, August 24, 2022). Case Example 2—Albert Ellis Airport Location: Jacksonville, North Carolina Airport Identifier: OAJ FAA Region: Southern Airport Hub Size: Non-hub Acreage: 675 Based Aircraft: 26 2021 Annual Aircraft Operations: 19,425 C H A P T E R 5 “At our GA airport, everything is very hands on, making remote work only appropriate for very few employees.” – Airport Manager, Atlanta Regional Airport, Falcon Field

40 Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies Owned and operated by Onslow County, the non-hub Albert Ellis Airport has 32 full-time equivalent employees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Airport Director offered the ability to work remotely for certain employees, such as administrative staff (e.g., Finance Manager and Accounting Clerk). However, staff were reluctant to work remotely and chose instead to remain on-site and in-person. The employees eligible for remote work expressed concern with dis- connecting from co-workers, as well as distractions at home (i.e., children). Employees in certain departments, including Police/Fire and Maintenance, were not eligible for remote work due to the hands-on nature of these positions. At the height of the pandemic, the airport permanently raised the gates to the airport parking lot. Parking cashiers were then reassigned to custodial duties in the terminal. According to the Airport Director, Onslow County has encountered significant employee retention challenges and was not immune to the “Great Resignation.” In 2021, the County had 1,300 employees, with 560 of these employees resigning over a two-year period. Even with 10% Cost of Living Adjustment pay raises for county employees (on top of 5% last year), the County, especially for skilled trades, is competing with other employers, such as Marine Corps Camp Lejeune and McDonald’s (personal communication, August 24, 2022). Case Example 3—Denver International Airport (non-management airport employee) Location: Denver, Colorado Airport Identifier: DEN FAA Region: Northwest Mountain Airport Hub Size: Large Acreage: 33,531 Based Aircraft: 1 2021 Annual Aircraft Operations: 588,855 The interviewee, who is an Airside Engineering Supervisor at Denver International Airport, worked remotely (either fully or in a hybrid arrangement) from March 2020 to October 2021. According to this person, “Engineers did not have to be on-site all the time. Even when a site visit was necessary, the Engineer worked in the field, easily maintaining social distance.” Even though the pandemic is now over, the interviewee continues working in a hybrid arrangement. She works two days in the office, and three days from home. At Denver International, which is a city- owned and -operated airport, supervisors have discretion as to which employees are considered essential and must remain on-site and in-person and which employees are considered non- essential and may work in a fully remote or hybrid work arrangement. She feels that one of the most significant benefits of remote or hybrid work is enhanced sustainability due to lower carbon emissions with fewer commuters on the road. Even so, based on her experience, the interviewee feels that fully online is not the most effective arrangement for employees in design and construc- tion. “I believe a hybrid model is more appropriate.” The airport hopes innovative design makes the work environment more comfortable and appealing. “Alternating when employees are in the office allows for more flexible space utilization” (personal communication, August 24, 2022). Case Example 4—Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport Location: Angleton, Texas Airport Identifier: LBX FAA Region: Southwest Airport Hub Size: Reliever Acreage: 674 Based Aircraft: 95 2021 Annual Aircraft Operations: 77,981 “We continue to hold some virtual meetings and focus on quality of work life for employees to enhance airport employee retention.” – Airport Director, Albert Ellis Airport “We are designing a new office facility that will support employees working in a hybrid arrangement. This facility includes the ability for on-site employees to connect with remote employees, such as a variety of environments for shared spaces. By including a variety of small areas to either have private conversations or group conversations with a coffee lounge feel, we’re hopeful that all employees will feel a sense of belonging.” – Airport Employee, Denver International Airport

Case Examples 41   With 13 employees, Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport, located south of Houston, Texas, maintained essential operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even at the height of the pandemic, there were always a customer service representative, a line technician, and several supervisors on duty at the airport. The airport rotated employees to minimize the number of employees present at any one time. The airport adopted standard COVID-19 protocols to protect both customers and employees, including requiring face coverings, and encouraging social distancing and use of sanitization stations. The Airport Director was focused on ensuring fair- ness among all employees during the pandemic, making sure not to allow only some employees to work remotely, and not others. The Airport Director suggests that all airport employees are needed on-site. The Airport Director also desired to maintain pre-pandemic levels of produc- tivity and was concerned that remote employees would be challenged to do that. As the Airport Director shared, “There is a home environment and a work environment. They are not the same.” (Personal communication, August 25, 2022). Case Example 5—Orange County (John Wayne) Airport Location: Santa Ana, California Airport Identifier: SNA FAA Region: Western Pacific Airport Hub Size: Medium Acreage: 504 Based Aircraft: 367 2021 Annual Aircraft Operations: 315,838 At the start of the pandemic, the leadership of Orange County Airport expressed concern about COVID-related illness among employees and passengers. Although some employees stayed home for a period of time, such as those with compromised immune systems or those with child- care issues related to closed schools, the Airport Director’s main priority was to get everyone safely back to work. First, all airport employees were classified as “essential.” This decision was made to ensure that no airport employees would be subject to county layoffs of “non-essential” personnel during the pandemic, to prevent employees from feeling unimportant, and to support the notion that all employees could be on-site. For employees in departments such as Police, Operations, and Maintenance, working from home was not an option, as their jobs could only be performed at the airport. Another concern was the level of productivity with at-home employees. Consideration of this dilemma motivated the Airport Director to get all employees back to work at the airport. “We all need mutual accountability, which is difficult in a remote work environment.” Although COVID-19 surprised all airports, creating far-reaching and cascading secondary impacts, it is difficult to create exact plans for a future crisis. In general, the Airport Director explained, airports should be prepared for business interruptions, but this will likely require on-the-spot decisions and the ability to pivot based on the specific circumstances (personal communication, August 25, 2022). Case Example 6—Tampa International Airport Location: Tampa, Florida Airport Identifier: TPA FAA Region: Southern Airport Hub Size: Large Acreage: 3,300 Based Aircraft: 79 2021 Annual Aircraft Operations: 212,973 “If certain employees need not be at the airport and can work from home, we must ask the question, ‘Are we staffed correctly’?” – Airport Director, Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport “How can an airport offer one group of employees a benefit [i.e., working from home] that other employees don’t get?” – Airport Director, Orange County (John Wayne) Airport

42 Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies The Executive Vice President of Airport Operations and Customer Service at Tampa Inter- national Airport (TPA) explains how the airport developed a “playbook” to ensure the airport remained open and operational for essential travel, while ensuring the health and resilience for each employee. This “playbook,” he explained, included an A and B team of each workgroup, “identifying and placing key employees in a reserve status working from home as a back-up capable of stepping into critical functions, such as the airport operations center, if needed due to an outbreak occurring at the airport.” To minimize overall risk to COVID-19, by March 16, 2020, TPA had moved all non-essential employees to remote work, including departments such as marketing, procurement, and finance. This “was made possible by the rapid response of the airport’s IT department along with an in-place, but not broadly adopted, work-from-home policy.” The use of Microsoft Teams and Box was crucial for enabling the productivity of remote employees. Essential employees (those required to work on-site due to their job function) included employees in airfield and terminal operations, airport operations center, maintenance, guest services, and concessions. TPA implemented a number of measures to ensure the health and safety of these essential employees, including having cleaning supplies readily available, following social distancing guidelines, separating team members where possible, and identifying alternate staff to cover for anyone unable to work. (Personal communication, August 26, 2022; Tiliacos 2020). Case Example 7—Punta Gorda Airport Location: Punta Gorda, Florida Airport Identifier: PGD FAA Region: Southern Airport Hub Size: Small Acreage: 1,934 Based Aircraft: 369 2021 Annual Aircraft Operations: 87,599 Located on the west coast of central Florida, the Punta Gorda Airport has 369 based aircraft and serves as a small-hub airport. When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, all airport employees that could work off-site (such as Accounting and Purchasing) were sent home. Personnel in Operations, Maintenance, Security, etc., as well as the Airport Director, continued working on-site at the airport due to the on-site nature of their work. As the pandemic continued, the airport examined employee requests to work from home on a case-by-case basis. For instance, as schools were closed, those employees with school-aged children either had to arrange alternate care for their children or remain at home to care for them and oversee their remote learning. The airport learned, however, that it was difficult to make accommodations for some employees and not others. This benefit could not be offered to everyone, as certain airport functions can only be performed on-site. Further, the airport discovered drawbacks to allowing some employees to work from home. The airport used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to update their work-at-home policy. Currently, the airport does not allow work-at-home unless the employee has a specific situation that requires unique accommodations. It is the airport’s belief that the airport and employees most benefit when all employees are on-site and working collaboratively together (personal communication, August 30, 2022). Case Example 8—Philadelphia International Airport Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Airport Identifier: PHL FAA Region: Eastern Airport Hub Size: Large “By establishing a critical emergency management foundation well in advance of this unexpected threat, Tampa International has remained responsive despite these unprecedented circumstances.” – Executive Vice President of Airport Operations and Customer Service, Tampa International Airport “Collaborative work best gets done face-to-face in conference rooms and office meetings. MS Teams was not as effective for us as face-to-face interaction.” – CEO, Punta Gorda Airport

Case Examples 43   Acreage: 2,302 Based Aircraft: 25 2021 Annual Operations: 268,884 Owned and operated by the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia International Airport is a large-hub airport with more than 15 million passenger enplanements annually. As the COVID-19 pandemic began, the airport considered which employees could work from home. It quickly determined that the vast majority of employees (approximately 80%) would be required to continue working on-site at the airport. Personnel in Operations, Facilities, and various trades could only perform their job functions on-site. According to the HR manager, determining which employees were eligible “depended on the type of work they performed. Can their work be performed remotely?” Those employees that could work off-site were initially eligible for 100% remote work. These employees received training in use of technology, logging work time (clocking in), etc., to support continued productivity—even in a remote setting. As the pandemic evolved, so did employee work arrangements. Shifting to a hybrid model allowed those employees who had been working 100% remote the ability to work on-site several days per week, which increased employee interaction and productivity. The pandemic required the airport to refine and improve their existing work-from-home policy. Moving forward, the airport will continue to offer remote work options for certain groups of employees, which has also aided with recruit- ing new employees who are more interested in flexible work arrangements. The airport’s remote work experiment during the pandemic did have some challenges. Most significantly, the airport learned that remote employees often feel lonely and disconnected form colleagues. In an effort to be responsive to employee needs, the airport held open houses, providing opportunities for remote employees to connect with supervisors and colleagues. Weekly virtual sessions were held to keep staff updated on airport happenings. Paper letters were mailed periodically to employees to keep everyone up-to-date on airport/HR events. Virtual grief counseling sessions were arranged with employees who needed additional support for their emotional and mental well-being (personal communication, August 30, 2022). “Communication is key. Even though it evolved during the pandemic, we intentionally maintained high levels of communication with all employees–whether on-site or remote” – HR Manager, Philadelphia International Airport

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 Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airport operators had to develop strategies that maintained operations while ensuring employee safety and public health. Though not all airport-related tasks can be performed from remote worksites, many airports identified tasks that could be performed remotely.

ACRP Synthesis 126: Impacts of COVID-19 on Airport Work Models and Strategies, from TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program, provides information on those airports that experimented in remote work, provides options for airports that did not participate in remote work, and identifies emerging trends.

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