Air General Feature Article in Air Cargo World Publication
U.S. cargo handlers and major airports have reimplemented some COVID-19 policies, including social distancing and new mandatory testing for unvaccinated employees, following the recent surge of the Delta variant.
“All stations, regardless of what their states of local government say, are required to mask up while on duty and in the facility,” James Maloney, project manager at New Hampshire-based cargo handling company Air General, told Air Cargo World.
In addition to mandatory masking for employees, customers entering the facility must also wear masks. Social distancing has been reimplemented — including having no more than five customers inside at once — and Air General is enforcing a rigorous cleaning regimen from both staff and outside companies.
“We have a COVID response team internally working on finding out if we have outbreaks in the stations and how to get testing and vaccine information to employees, as well as answering questions and concerns from our employee base,” Maloney said.
Air General currently operates at 29 U.S. airports, including Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) and Memphis International Airport (MEM).
Meanwhile, MEM recently made it mandatory for unvaccinated employees to begin testing twice weekly, instead of just once, to identify asymptomatic staff and mitigate the spread, Glen Thomas, director of strategic marketing and communication at MEM, told Air Cargo World.
“We have a limited amount of staff that work on the airfield and so any type of outbreak could really endanger our day-to-day operations, much less the health of those employees,” Thomas said. “[So], we are conducting on site COVID testing for all employees and employees like me who are office employees. We are still working part time from home and part time at the office, but if you report to the office, you have to get COVID tested at least once a week, even if you’ve been vaccinated.”
Cargo handling and pickup at airports are already experiencing slowdowns due to the pandemic and staffing shortages, and the possibility of a Delta surge may exacerbate the issue. In turn, some U.S.-based cargo stakeholders have chosen to implement “solutions to keep operating, but operating safely,” Maloney said.
Meanwhile, China’s “zero tolerance policy” resulted in severe airfreight disruptions at Shanghai (PVG), following a COVID-19 outbreak that infected three ground handling agents in the international cargo wing of the airport. Restrictions that were put in place impacted cargo flights, causing rates to soar while roughly one-third of scheduled international cargo arrivals into PVG were cancelled by Aug. 23.