PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - After a dismal year for the airline industry because of the coronavirus pandemic, some carriers are emphasizing enhanced health and safety measures in a bid to lure back travelers in time for the holidays.
"There's nothing more important to us than a safe, clean environment at the airport," said Tom Wettig, the Delta Airlines station manager at Phoenix Sky Harbor.
The second quarter was the worst financial hit in the history of the airline industry. The third-quarter results won't be much better.
On Wednesday, Delta gave members of the media a behind-the-scenes look at how they're cleaning airplanes and protecting customers from COVID-19.
"The planes are the cleanest they've ever been," said Caitlin Blair, a Delta flight attendant.
After every flight, Delta sprays down the insides of their airplanes with electrostatic sanitizers -- a device that sprays an electrically-charged sanitizing mist that sticks to surfaces and kills viruses and bacteria better than traditional cleaning methods.
"It provides a safe environment for our flight crews as well as our customers," Wettig said.
Delta says it'll continue to sanitize its aircraft with electrostatic sanitizers even after the pandemic is over, and they've even established a "Global Cleanliness Division."
United Airlines is also using electrostatic sanitizers to clean its planes, and other major carriers like Alaska, American, and Southwest are cleaning before every flight.
According to a notice the airline filed with the state, furloughs could impact 1,367 employees at Sky Harbor, where the number of passengers is still down more than 61% compared to the same time last year.
Airlines are also taking other measures like installing plexiglass barriers at check-in, promoting social distancing and adding hand sanitizing stations.
Delta is among a dwindling number of airlines that include Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines still blocking off seats and limiting flight capacities of airplanes. But even with safety measures like HEPA filters on aircraft, which can capture viruses and particulates, doctors say air travel in the COVID-19 era does come with risk.
"You're in a contained tube for a number of hours. So I think people who are higher-risk for whatever reason need to be wary about whether the travel is essential or not," said Dr. Shad Marvasti with the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
If you haven't flown in a while, expect to see a lot of changes when it comes to how the TSA is handling coronavirus.
And if you do have to travel by air, Dr. Marvasti recommends passengers wear both a mask and a face shield.
"Just as an added layer of protection to protect your eyes from any splash or particles that are circulating in the are," Dr. Marvasti said.