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On Thursday, representatives from several aviation industry associations joined Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske to discuss the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and what airports and airlines are doing to keep air travel safe.

Pekoske reminded listeners that travelers are encouraged to continue wearing masks, maintain distance from others and observe the guidelines at their travel destinations. He acknowledged new developments that make the airport and flying experiences safer.

The executives on the call stressed their faith in the measures being taken both in terminals and on airplanes to keep travelers safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America (A4A), noted how much air travel demand has dropped since this time last year, but also added that with the hope of a vaccine or vaccines on the horizon, government support will be more necessary than ever to ensure vaccines can be distributed around the country in a timely manner and to meet the rise in demand that will accompany the widespread accessibility of a coronavirus vaccine: “Bottom line here is, if you want to get the vaccine to the people, we need to get our employees back and ready. …We are hoping that in the lame duck session, Congress will act and provide an extension to the payroll stability program.”

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) President Kevin Burke focused on airports and the measures taken in the terminals to ensure the experience is as friction-less as possible and travelers are able to get from the curb to the gate safely. “Airports are ready for your trip,” he said. “The journey may look a little different than it did before… but it’s still safe.”

Burke also stressed the importance of continued awareness of the upcoming October 2021 Real ID deadline, in addition to ACI-NA’s new health accreditation program for airports, which seeks to standardize health and safety protocols in airports across the country.

As far as preparing airports for the return of demand in air travel, Todd Hauptli, president and CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), said he believes that the nation’s airports are as ready as they’ll ever be to get back to capacity. “If you want 100 percent safety in the air travel system, you keep the planes on the ground,” he said in response to a question about the safety of traveling right now. “We have always accepted a certain amount of risk associated with air travel and that risk resides in that tiny, tiny space between 99.99 percent safe and 100 percent safe, and it’s in that very tiny space that we operate. …

“It is always less risky to not travel than it is to travel,” he went on to say. “But travel is extraordinarily safe and it is extraordinarily safe today.”