Keeping it clean

Local airports ramp up efforts to accommodate business travel trends

By Leslie T. Snadowsky

As business travel returns to the friendly skies after a pandemic hiatus, the Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) and Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) are maintaining COVID-19 cleaning protocols to ensure safe and healthy travel.

“The bar has been raised,” said Jon Rembold, HHH airport director. “There are different and better cleaning solutions that are being used that also may have longer-lasting cleansing effects. That’s a big bonus. Plus, our cleaning crew is visible. We want them to be out there cleaning while people are in the terminal because there is a physical component to cleaning things, but there is also a psychological component to letting travelers see our efforts so they feel a little bit safer and healthier as they’re traveling through Hilton Head.”

Mile-high

Business travel is rebounding, and airports are contending with business travelers’ COVID-19 baggage. Accounting giant Deloitte reports, “after two years of reduction to less than a quarter of its 2019 size, and months of continued setbacks due to COVID-19 variants, corporate travel is expected to climb back steadily in 2022.”

“Daily passenger volumes at TSA checkpoints show that people are traveling again,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “And we work continuously with our airport and airline partners to anticipate and prepare for higher traffic patterns.”

Cleaning customs

“If a leisure traveler decides that their comfort level isn’t quite where they want it to be, they’ll just postpone their trip or cancel it,” Rembold said. “While we don’t have a huge volume of business travelers at Hilton Head, we do have a surprising number of business commuters who may travel on a weekly basis to go work somewhere else and then live on Hilton Head. And cleanliness is very important to them.”

Foregoing a county contract to hire a locally owned and operated company with specialized services, HHH approached Lowcountry Commercial Services to combat hygienic headwinds. Rembold said the company employs a two-part cleaning routine with a disinfectant cleaning spray and anti-microbial fog to address surfaces and airspace that bring germ eradication up to nearly 100 percent. “Lowcountry Commercial Services delivers the product that we need, and they do a great job,” he says. 

Rembold says they also post signage around the airport alerting passengers to the proactive approach.

Getting on board

Not only did the airport’s cleaning formula take off, but Rembold said the airlines themselves committed to concessions.

“The airlines wanted to make sure that their customers felt clean and safe and healthy,” he says, “so they increased their deep cleans on the airplanes. Pre-pandemic, deep cleaning didn’t necessarily happen every time an airplane turned over passengers and crews, but that changed with the pandemic. Now, every time a group gets off before another group gets on the airplane, the plane gets a deep clean. We have newer aircraft at Hilton Head Island Airport, and these newer aircraft have outstanding ventilation and filtration systems too.”

Playing it Safe

“The safety of our passengers, staff and tenants continues to be a top priority at Savannah/Hilton Head International,” marketing manager Candace Carpenter said. “We initiated additional protocols following the outbreak in 2020, and we continuously monitor the status of the disease and remain in contact with our partners and stakeholders at the local, state and national levels.”

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