Acrylic cough barriers at the Delta Air Lines ticket county. Photo by Chris Jennewein

As businesses reopen from the pandemic and air travel slowly picks up, San Diego International Airport is being outfitted to handle the increase without compromising public health.

The airport is currently serving around 9,000 departing passengers daily, up from just 2,000 during the worst of the pandemic, but still well under the 40,000 a day at this time last year.

New health precautions at the airport include a mask requirement, cough barriers, extensive signage with health advisories, floor signs urging travelers to stand “one surfboard apart,” and an aggressive program to disinfect all surfaces, from elevator buttons to bathrooms to escalator railings.

“Any things that people touch are cleaned and sanitized on a continuous basis,” said airport spokesman Jonathan Heller.

On a recent noon visit, the airport was still largely empty, but almost everyone was wearing a mask. Face coverings can be purchased at some concessions, and Heller said the airport plans to install vending machines for obtaining masks.

If someone is seen not wearing a face covering, they are handed a card explaining why they must wear one.

Many of the restaurants and concessions remain closed because of few customers, so travelers are being advised to bring food and extra water bottles.

Travelers are also being told to double check with their airline before arriving at the airport to avoid the possibility of a flight cancellation.

The good news? Security lines are still almost non existent.

Unlike many local institutions, the airport never closed, but has seen few cases of coronavirus. Heller said there have been 20 cases to date among all 9,000 people — employees, TSA staff, contractors and airline personnel — who work at the sprawling facility.

Heller said current projections suggest it will take two to three years for air travel in San Diego to return to the level reached in 2019.

Social distancing markers on the ramp to security at Terminal 2. Photo by Chris Jennewein
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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.